By HENRY VICAR
You*! I want a front seat at the gi-
gantic struggle between Capital and
Labor which young Hollis McEachron
finds when he comes up from the
country byroads face to face with
Big Business— strikes, riots, company
police, and union meetings.
If you are employed — if you are an
employer— if you are just a spectator
on the side lines watching this im-
portant development in the func-
tioning of democracy— you'll want
to read this book!
Every man and woman in America
today is vitally concerned with this
question. Treated as it is here, from
a neutral and unbiased viewpoint,
each side is focused in its true per-
spective. Here are characters you
will long remember, action you will
not forget— a story which concerns
From the collection of the
San Francisco, California
The Qompany Owns
Digitized by the Internet Arciiive
in 2006 with funding from
The Qompany Owns
THE WESTMINSTER PRESS
Copyright, 1942, by THE WESTMINSTER PRESS
All rights reserved — no part of this book
may be reproduced in any form without
permission in writing from the publisher,
except by a reviewer who wishes to quote
brief passages in connection with a review
written for magazine or newspaper.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Bob and Eleanor Blakely
The Qompany Owns the Tools
TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY MILES WEST OF THE Missis-
sippi River, surrounded on all sides by endless fields of
corn, the little town of Holden, Iowa, tried to sleep.
Most of the citizens were willing to aid that slumber.
Merchants dozed in their stores, and old men sat on
the hotel porch and talked sleepily.
The weather was hot and humid. Low gray skies
held only a vague promise of rain. In the meantime
the angry red mercury in the thermometers held fast
at one hundred and two above. Mosquitoes and flies
buzzed and bit the hot, uncomfortable inhabitants. No
one wanted to move. Everyone wanted to relax and
sleep, hoping to beat the heat.
The sound of a hammer pounding on metal, an or-
dinary enough sound during most of the year, now
sounded and resounded, loud and annoying as a cheap
drum being beaten at five o'clock in the morning.
The sound came from a weather-beaten frame build-
ing at one end of the one twisted street that went
through town. Above the wide, barnlike doors, the
faded words " Holden Garage " could be faintly
seen. Outside, strewn around where they had been
carted and abandoned, were several battered wrecks of
cars. One or two, despite the fact that the tires were
flat and that chickens were making them Into comforta-
ble homes, had crudely lettered " For Sale " signs stuck
on the windshields.
Inside, however, the only activity in Holden was go-
ing on. An old Ford truck, covered with the dirt and
mud of many country roads, stood by the small work-
bench. A grizzled farmer in overalls hovered anx-
iously by one fender. " Pop " Farnham, proprietor of
the garage, squatted importantly by the front wheel
and looked through at the work being done.
The light from a small electric bulb shone out from
under the truck. And from where it shone came the
hammer blows that were disturbing the sleep of Holden
in the middle of a hot summer afternoon.
*' How you comIn\ Hollis? " Pop asked anxiously.
A grunt and more hammer blows were his only an-
The farmer tried to look In at the motor. '* Think
you can fix it, boy? **
Pop snorted, pulling out a huge red bandanna and
mopping his face.
** 'Course he can fix It. Hollis can fix any car was
ever made. Can't you, Hollis? "
There was another grunt, and more hammer blows.
" Natural-born mechanic," Pop whispered loudly to
the farmer. " Just seems to understand motors like
people understands one another."
The farmer nodded, unimpressed.
The man under the truck wriggled on his back until
his head was clear. *' Start the motor, will you, Pop? ''
Pop creaked to his feet and got in behind the wheel.
He stepped on the starter. Nothing happened. The
farmer's lips tightened. " I should have gone to a big-
ger garage," he muttered.
" Hold it a minute," HoUis yelled. He worked un-
der the truck for another minute. " Try again."
Pop stepped on the starter, and the motor caught on,
and ran. Pop looked out triumphantly. '* Told you
Hollis would have 'er fixed in no time."
Hollis MacEachron, his job done, pulled himself out
from under the truck. He was a tall youth, lean to the
point of being skinny, with a certain shy awkwardness
in his way of talking. He was dressed in baggy cover-
alls that were black with grease and grime. From un-
der his round cap a wisp of hair the color of corn silk
straggled out. His face was big, with high cheekbones
and a strong bony jaw. He wiped his hands on a piece
of oily waste and grinned at the farmer.
'' Guess that ought to hold for a while," he drawled.
" I can't see for the life of me how these cars hold up
as they do, the way you fellows have to drive them over
rough roads and through all kinds of mudholes."
The farmer fumbled in his pockets and drew out an
old wallet. He opened it, disclosing a few tattered
bills and some change. '' How much do I owe you? "
he asked Pop.
Pop, always ill at ease where matters of money were
concerned, puffed up like an adder and creased his fore-
head as though he were doing some heavy thinking.
His round red face grew rounder and redder. " Why,
I don't rightly know offhand. How much would you
say the job was worth, Hollis? "
Hollis was silent for a moment as he finished wiping
his hands. His deep-set blue eyes took in the battered
truck, the obviously poor dress of the farmer, and the
worn wallet with the few bills.
" I'd say whatever the new parts were worth," Hollis
*' That 'ud be seventy-five cents," Pop said.
The farmer held one of the creased bills in his hand.
" Ain't you got no charge for your labor? "
Hollis grinned and motioned with his hand. " That
wasn't anything. I didn't have anything to do this aft-
ernoon anyway. If you hadn't come along I would have
had to listen to Pop tell me stories all day — and I've
heard them all a hundred times."
'' I don't like to have a man work for nothing,"
persisted the farmer. " Work had ought to be paid
*' Tell you what," said Hollis. " Sometime when
you have an extra chicken around, bring it in for me to
have in time for a Sunday dinner."
The farmer put the bill back in his wallet, torn be-
tween being happy that he didn't have to part with so
scarce a thing as money and the fact that he felt a
chicken was small pay for the service that had been per-
formed for him.
*' Thank ye," he said to Hollis. ** I don't have much
money, and I'd be lost without the use of the truck.
I'll not only bring you a chicken, but, if crops are good,
I'll see that you get some good corn and all the garden
truck you want. I'll pay you back in good measure."
HoUis flushed. " Don't you feel you owe me any-
thing," he said. *' People ought to help each other —
that's what we're here for. If the Lord gave me the
kind of sense that makes it easy to fix cars, I reckon I
ought to fix 'em."
When the farmer drove off Pop looked severely
at Hollis. " There you go again," he complained.
" Hollis, how do you ever expect to save up enough
money for that technical training if you don't charge for
your work? Do you want to stay in Holden all your
life workin' for me? "
" Take it easy. Pop," Hollis smiled. " Fifty cents
or a dollar won't make much difference one way or an-
other to me, and I guess he needs it more than I do."
Pop looked at the seventy-five cents he had charged
for materials. Taking Hollis' hand, he put the money
in his palm. " Take this," he said gruflly. " I've had
them parts around so long I'd written them off as a
" And don't argue," he said when Hollis was about
to protest. " You need it more than I do, and what
goes for the farmer goes for you." He stomped away,
wiping his face with the big bandanna, not wanting to
be thanked, because money matters always embar-
rassed him. Hollis took the money and put it in a tin
box that was on a small wooden shelf by his workbench.
He had forty-seven dollars and thirty-nine cents now.
He needed two hundred. He sat down at his bench and
looked for the thousandth time at an illustrated book-
let that was dog*s-eared and greasy from being han-
That little book contained the dreams Hollls had for
the future. Once he had the necessary money, he could
take the course, and become a machinist. Then, with
his natural ability, he was sure that he could get a job
that would enable him to go even farther. Perhaps,
someday, he would be able to attend an engineering col-
lege. He wasn't impatient about it. Maybe he would
have to wait five years, or even longer. He had his
goal, and his course was set. The way Hollis figured, if
he could go to a technical school and qualify for a bet-
ter job, he would be able to save more out of his salary
and thus be able to attend an engineering school.
And so, while Holden slept under hot, muggy skies,
Hollis MacEachron, his hammer now stilled, sat and
dreamed of the future.
Late in the afternoon it began to rain. The first
drops raised dust from the dry country roads, but as
the downpour increased, the dirt and clay turned to
mud — deep, sticky, clinging mud, bottomless, slippery,
and treacherous. The oppressive heat lifted under the
cooling influence of the rain. The steady drumming on
roofs caused the merchants to doze a Httle deeper, and
the old men at the hotel moved inside, to look out
through the big windows and rock and talk. And Hol-
lis MacEachron, still at his bench, listened to the down-
pour and continued to dream of the future.
At six, Hollis put on a long slicker and a pair of
boots and picked his way through the mud to Holden's
one and only restaurant.
" Supper," Hollls ordered as usual, and as usual he
got roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, a tre-
mendous chunk of pie, and a cup of coffee. It was al-
ways the same: one night roast beef, the next night
roast pork. Sunday was the one day of variety. The
restaurant was closed that day, and HoUis was always
invited to some house for Sunday dinner.
He was an orphan who had grown up in the town.
He had lived with relatives in Holden until he was
through high school and working at the garage. When
they moved away from Holden, he preferred to stay,
working and living in the same building. He had fixed
up part of the garage into a neat, cozy room, well-
heated in winter by a small stove. Pop paid him a small
salary, which was enough for him to live on, and he also
got a commission on most jobs.
Pop was eager for Hollis to go to technical school
and, could he have afforded it, would have paid his way.
As it was, he tried to give Hollis as much as he could,
in order that Hollis might soon be able to make his big
break for a career.
After supper Hollis went back to his home at the
garage. He stretched out on his bunk and read. Books
were hard to get in Holden, and Hollis depended for
his supply on the minister who came to Holden every
Sunday to hold services. The Reverend Mr. Small was
deeply interested in Hollis. Not only was he able to
bring him books, but he was able to suggest reading.
More than that, he was one of the few persons with
whom Hollis could talk about what he read and how it
might affect his future.
Hollls was so engrossed in his reading that the tele-
phone rang several times before he noticed it. He fi-
nally became aware of it and, reaching out with his
long hand, pulled it over to him.
It was an emergency call. Hollis got the exact loca-
tion. " ril be right out,*' he promised.
It took him only a minute to climb back Into his boots
and slicker and get Into the tow truck. The truck was
especially equipped by Hollis for country emergencies,
with four rear wheels, heavy chains, and all the tools
needed for digging cars out of ditches.
Hollis drove cautiously over slick roads until he
came to the stalled car. His headlights picked out a
large black sedan. Hollis whistled. One didn't see a
car like that around Holden very often. As he came
up a chauffeur stepped out of the car and signaled him
to stop. The man's face showed great relief when he
recognized the tow truck.
Working quickly and surely, Hollis hooked his chain
to the big car. '* When I give you the signal," he told
the chauffeur, ** you put your car in high gear and let it
The chauffeur shook his head, sending a small spray
of rain off the peak of his cap. ** Can't get it started.
Something happened when I slid in the ditch."
" O. K.," said HolHs. " I'll tow you back to the ga-
rage and see if I can fix it up for you."
He started the motor on the truck and put it in gear.
The rear wheels slid around a little and spun in the
slick mud, but they cut down into enough solid earth to
give traction. With his motor gunned almost to the
limit, but his left foot working the clutch as deftly as a
violinist fingering his strings, Hollis got the truck under
way and pulled the big car out of the sticky muck of the
He drove home slowly, keeping an eye on the car he
was towing through the rear-vision mirror, being care-
ful not to swing it back Into a ditch again. Finally he
was able to tow the car right Into the garage.
Hollis jumped out of the truck and went back to the
car. " This is It," he said. ** Like for me to have a
look at the motor?"
The back door opened, and an elderly man got out
of the car. He was dressed in a manner Hollis had
seen only in pictures — and in a way he had doubted
people really went about. Spats, cane, black coat and
hat, and a black bow tie that was in startling contrast
to the dazzling whiteness of a starched shirt. Expen-
sive jewels winked in the light as his ungloved hand
moved to close the car door.
The man himself was of medium height, with shaggy
white eyebrows that he was in the habit of pulling close
together above a pair of Inky-black eyes. There was
about him an air of authority and power. He looked
dubiously at Hollis, standing dripping wet in his long
slicker with his corn-silk hair hanging wetly over his
The man tapped the fender of his car lightly with his
cane. " Have you ever seen a car like this before ? " he
** No, sir," Hollis answered. " But it sure is a
The man ignored his compliment. " Then what
makes you think you can fix my car if you've never seen
one like it before? "
"It's a car, isn't it?" Hollis asked. "I can fix
The man smiled indulgently. " I think I'd better call
a garage that is better equipped," he said, looking
about at the humble fixtures. " I'm afraid you might
do more harm than good."
*' I was good enough to pull you out of the ditch,"
said HolHs bluntly. " Your car wasn't too fancy to go
off the road and break down. An old Ford wouldn't
have done that."
The man fixed Hollis with an inquisitive stare.
" What makes you so anxious to work on my automo-
bile? " he asked. " I suppose you think I look wealthy
and you'll be able to charge me a stiff rate. If that's
your idea, it won't work. I'll pay what it's worth and
" That wasn't my idea," Hollis said coldly. " It's
no more than fair that I get your business, seeing as
how I got you out of trouble. But the real reason is
that I'm anxious to get a look at the motor. I like
" Go ahead, then," sighed the owner of the car.
" Charles will assist you in any way."
Hollis studied the car. ''About the only assistance
I need right now is some directions on how to get the
hood up. I don't see any handle."
" Really now," protested the owner. *' I think It
would be quite unwise for you to attempt anything.
After all — if you don't even know how to open the
hood — "
" That doesn't mean anything," drawled Hollls.
*' Cars are just like people in some ways. Take you and
me, for instance. We don't dress alike. But Inside
we're the same flesh and blood. That's the way It Is
with cars. The outside appearance doesn't mean a
thing when there's something wrong Inside."
A flicker of a smile touched the man's lips. " Open
the hood, Charles," he ordered.
The chauffeur touched a dash button, and the hood
raised slowly. A moment later Hollls was bending
over the motor, eagerly taking In the details of its
*' Try starting It," he ordered the chauffeur.
Charles stepped on the starter. Hollis laughed.
*' I'll have your fancy car fixed in three minutes," he
said. " All that happened is that when you went in the
ditch your battery cable was knocked loose. Any
twelve-year-old boy could fix that."
Still chuckling to himself, Hollis fixed the cable in a
moment. The chauffeur stepped on the starter, and
the powerful motor purred into smooth action.
The owner took out a wallet that was heavy with
large bills. " How much do I owe you except an apol-
ogy? " he asked.
" Dollar for the tow, nothing for the battery repair,"
" A dollar's not too much for that tow, considering
the kind of night it is," said Hollls quickly.
The elderly man said softly, *' Look, son, do you
realize that most places would have charged me at least
five dollars for the tow and would have made the repair
job seem worth at least that much again, and that I
would have considered that a bargain?"
" I'm not most places," said Hollis. " Fm me. I
charge what the job is worth. That's a dollar."
The man looked at his chauffeur. *' Charles, I think
I've found an honest man." He turned to Hollis again.
" Let me give you a word of advice, son. This is a hard
world we live in, and if you go about with your attitude,
you'll find people taking advantage of you. You'll never
get any place if you don't get in and scratch and kick
like everyone else does."
*' I'm not interested in getting any place that way,"
smiled Hollis. " I know what I want, and just how I'm
going to get it."
" Tell me about It."
" I'm going to save up enough money here to go to a
technical school. Then, when I can qualify for a better
job, I'll work until I have enough to become a student
at some engineering college. I think I'd like to be an
" And how long Is all this going to take? "
*' I don't rightly know," Hollis admitted. '' The
way it looks, it will be a long time. But that's what I
want to do, and that's the way I see to do It."
*' Haven't you ever thought of getting a better job
sooner, so you could get to technical school quicker ? "
Hollis nodded. " There were some jobs around that
would have paid me a little more than Fm making here,
but they weren't jobs that were mechanical. I figure
that while I'm here I'm learning about the things I need
" Probably learned all you'll ever learn here. Lots
of defense jobs these days. You'd be better off in one."
He grimaced. " We pay big enough wages, that's cer-
" I'm not thinking just about wages," Hollis an-
The man searched in his wallet and took out a dollar
bill. *' Are you sure that's all you want to charge me ? "
'* That's all." He took the bill.
The man put one foot on the running board of his
car. He paused, then took a card out of his wallet.
*' If you ever come to Motor City, drop around at Van-
guard Motors. Show this card to the personnel di-
rector, and you'll probably get a job."
Hollis took the card, his ears still ringing. " You
mean I can get a job in an automobile factory?"
he asked, not allowing himself to believe what he
" Of course," the man answered a bit gruffly, " only
we don't make cars these days. Army trucks, mostly.
Tanks. Need a lot of men."
He got into his car, and Charles backed out of the
garage and drove off. Hollis walked outside until he
stood in the rain, still holding the card in his big hands
as he watched the taillight of the car fade in the dis-
tance. When it was gone he came to his senses with a
start and hastily ran inside, wiping the rain off the
card. He held it under a light and read:
Jason D. Franks General Manager
Hollis' hand trembled as he read the card over and
over again. His gangly body straightened up, and his
chin tilted to a new angle. When he thought of what
that card might mean to his future, his nostrils wid-
ened and he breathed in the dank night air in great
All at once he wanted to race through the rain to tell
everyone about his good fortune. His heart seemed to
be much too large for his body and ready to burst out.
He want to shout, and yell, and race around, and tear
He carefully put the card in a safe place, took off his
slicker and hung it up, and sat down on the bed again to
think things over calmly. But that was impossible. All
he could think of was what it would be like to be work-
ing at an automobile factory. Already he could see
himself at work on some new model, working, perhaps,
with engineers who had designed it. What a break for
him I He would be working on new cars, with clean,
shiny parts, and, best of all, he would be learning more
and more about what he would have to know as an auto-
Hollis switched off his light and lay in the darkness,
thinking over the offer that had been made to him. He
lay not moving a muscle, and, to outward appearances,
fast asleep. But a vagrant ray of light that fell across
his face touched his eyes, and they sparkled.
Next morning, when Pop Farnham squeezed his
short, stout body through the side door of the garage,
he found HoUis whistling at his work.
*' Dunno what you're so happy about," grunted Pop,
breathing heavily from the heat. " Here it is only
eight o'clock, and it's eighty-five in the shade. She's
gonna be a scorcher today."
*' Feller offered me a job last night," said Hollis.
Pop squinted at him. " What doin' ? "
" Building Army trucks."
Pop sat down, puffing with the effort. " You hadn't
ought to go to sleep so soon after you eat, Hollis.
Gives you bad dreams."
** It's no dream. Pop. He was a real big shot. I
pulled his car out of a ditch."
" Motor City's where they build cars," Pop observed.
" That's a long ways off."
" That's where the job is."
" Eh? " Pop leaned forward, convinced that Hollis
wasn't joking. '' Are you really serious, Hollis? "
" Sure am." Hollis sat down beside Pop, absently
wiping his hands on a piece of rag. The light that had
come into his eyes the night before still burned. This
morning, after a sleepless night, his face was drawn
thinner than ever, until his skin was stretched tightly
over the big bones in his face. " Pop," said Hollis. " I
Pop looked at Hollis' serious, taut face. " Hollis,"
he said, " you've been wrasslin' with your soul again.
Hollls sighed. " It's a draw so far. I want to go.
Pop. It might be my big chance. It might mean catch-
ing up two or three years. Now's the time to get a job."
" What's the other side of the question? "
** I'm afraid of getting sidetracked," said Hollis.
" Motor City's a big place. Lot's of things going on.
Maybe in the long run I won't save any more than I will
here. And you need me here, Pop."
" Automobile workers make eighty cents an hour,'*
said Pop, as though to himself.
" What will you do if I go ? " Hollis asked.
" Eighty cents an hour is a good wage," said Pop.
*' Money isn't everything," said Hollis.
" You'll have to leave here sooner or later," said
Pop, not looking at Hollis. " America kind of needs
" There's that," Hollis agreed.
Pop pulled out his big red bandanna and blew his
nose vigorously. *' Drop me a card oncet in a while,
Hollis threw down the rag he held in his hand.
" Here I I haven't made up my mind yet," he said.
" It's been made up for you," said Pop. " Hollis,
you gotta go. You gotta develop the talents you got.
That's what you got 'em for. You'll make a good wage
and have a chance to become something." Pop's voice
shook. " If you don't make up your mind to go, I'll —
I'll — "
T^ 22 ^
" I'll fire you," said Pop weakly. " Then you'll have
Hollis put his hand on Pop's shoulder. " Give me
to the end of the week, Pop. I want to talk to Mr.
Small about it. He'll help me get the thing straight."
Hollis went to his workbench and started working
on a faulty carburetor. Pop got up silently and went
out. Hollis heard him blow his nose again on the big
On Sunday, Hollis went to church as usual. He wore
his one suit — a blue serge that was already a little too
short for him. His hair was slicked down with wa-
ter, but a little thatch in the back insisted on standing
straight up. Hollis let it go — as usual. He had other
things on his mind that were more important than how
his hair grew.
After church, he and Mr. Small had Sunday dinner
together at a home where both had an invitation. It
was then that Hollis asked if he could have a talk.
The Reverend Mr. Small, like his name, was small
in stature and slightly built. But he seemed big. There
was a way he had of taking a person into his confidence
— an understanding way that seemed to make him
He knew all his people. And long before Hollis had
asked to talk with him, Mr. Small knew that Hollis had
something on his mind. But he said nothing, prefer-
ring to let the boy speak when he was ready.
So when Hollis asked for that talk, Mr. Small took
him for a walk in the country, where Hollis, surrounded
by the great fields where growing things everywhere
showed him God's handiwork, could express himself
freely to one of God's servants.
And Hollis did talk. He found words to express
feelings that he never knew he had. He talked of what
he wanted to find in the future, of his great love for his
work, and this chance of going ahead.
He also talked of how he hated to leave Pop and the
things and the people that meant so much to him. And
when he had talked himself out, he appealed for advice.
" It's true about fairly high wages," said the minis-
ter, " although there are probably many other prob-
lems I do not know about and cannot give you any in-
formation on. I have faith in you, Hollis, and in your
steadfastness of purpose. But it won't be easy to keep
a straight course."
" I'll live a good life," said Hollis earnestly.
The minister smiled. *' I don't mean that, Hollis.
Of course you will. It's just that you're going into
something that is so much bigger than you are, so much
bigger than any one person."
*' I don't quite understand — "
*' Hollis, have you ever been to a large factory? "
Hollis shook his head.
" I can't explain mass production to you very well.
You'll have to see it and be part of it to understand it.
I'm afraid that you might not be able to conquer mass
production. You'll find Motor City isn't Holden, Hol-
lis. You'll be going into more than a new city and state
— you'll be going into a new world. But I can't tell you
not to go. It's the world of the twentieth century — a
hard, mass world. The individual doesn't have an easy
time of it. Tm afraid it might beat you down. When
I went through a plant, I watched the men working. I
saw something in their eyes, something that made me
" Here were these men making money — I guess lots
more money than I make, or even want to make — but I
kept wondering about them, and thinking — Had some-
thing happened to them? ' For what shall it profit a
man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own
^' Don't see just what souls have to do with machines
in a factory," Hollis mused.
" You'll know, if you go," Mr. Small said simply.
" It's something I can't tell you."
" I'd like to have a try at it," Hollis was talking
freely. *' I haven't been able to think of anything else
since that man left his card with me." He looked off
into the east, as though by looking he would be able to
see the tall smoking chimneys of Motor City. " I've
been getting along here in Holden all right for a long
time now, and I've been satisfied that I was doing the
right thing and that I would be able to do the things I
planned. Now it's different. It's as if something new
has gotten into my blood.
" I don't even know what a factory looks like, or how
big it is. All I know is that everything in me wants to
go and find out. I'm willing to take the risk of failure
that I was never willing to take before."
Hollis turned to face the minister squarely. " Should
I go ? " he pleaded. " Will it be the best thing ? "
The minister smiled. " Go, HoUis. I can't say
whether it is the best thing or not. But In your heart
you've already decided. Go, do your best, and take the
good and bad like a man."
" That," said HoUis, '' I will do."
TUESDAY AFTERNOON HOLLIS WAS READY TO LEAVE
for Motor City. He had spent a full third of his sav-
ings for a bus ticket, and the slim balance was tucked
safely away in his pocket.
He waited for the bus at the Holden Hotel. As on
Sunday, Hollis was wearing his blue serge suit and a
clean white shirt. His few belongings were packed in
a small battered suitcase that Pop had given him.
Also he had a small metal tool case and some tools that
he had managed to buy over a period of years.
Pop was on hand to see him off. The stout little ga-
rage man stood with his hands thrust deep in his pock-
ets and gazed mournfully in the direction from which
the bus would come. Pop also had on a fresh shirt and
his good pants, and his feet were squeezed into a new
pair of tight shoes he had put on in honor of this sad,
Off in the distance, a cloud of dust rolled toward
town. Pop pulled out a heavy silver watch and squinted
at it. " She*s a comin*," he said dolefully.
Hollis sighed. ** Guess you're right."
They stood in silence, at a loss for words. Hollis
felt a queer nervous tension in the pit of his stomach
that made it hard for him to breathe. His mouth and
throat were dry.
The bus, dusty and half empty, pulled up to the ho-
tel. Hollis bent to get his suitcase and toolbox, but Pop
already had them and was starting for the bus.
Hollis followed Pop and took a seat in the middle.
Pop swung the baggage into the rack over Hollis' head.
He pulled a big new blue bandanna out of his back
pocket and mopped his face and the back of his neck.
*' Sure is hot," he said, looking around.
HolHs held out his hand. *' Good-by, Pop." He
found that his words were sticking in his throat.
Pop squeezed his hand. "Good-by — son." He
tried to smile. " Don't forget me when you're fa-
Hollis growled in simulated anger. " Pop, what do
you take me for? I'll write regularly, and when I can
I'll come back for a visit."
The bus driver got in. *' Get your tickets ready," he
announced. Pop took this as his cue and started to
leave. Outside, he stood by the window where Hollis
sat and mopped his face constantly with the blue ban-
danna. Hollis slumped in his seat and looked out, feel-
ing almost physical pain at tearing himself away from
the surroundings where he had always lived.
Then the driver started the motor, and the bus
started to move off. Hollis waved to Pop and looked
back. Pop was standing in the same place, waving un-
til the bus was out of sight.
The bus droned eastward. Iowa was crossed, then
the Mississippi, and then the level fields of Illinois.
When the bus stopped Hollis got out to stretch and eat
a little. At night, while others slept, he stared into the
darkness and listened to the whine of the motor, and
Then, next day, when he came closer to Motor City,
the country changed. There were more towns, and big
cities. Hollis saw for the first time the squalid, barren
city slums, the confusion and rush of the heart of a city,
and the palatial homes that were in the suburbs.
And then he whizzed through another confusion of
traffic and buildings and factories, and he was in Motor
Hollis got out of the bus, walked into the station —
and was lost. Suddenly he realized that he didn't have
any place to go. He had the card that would introduce
him to the factory, but, other than that, he had no
place. And now, in the late afternoon, it would be too
late to go there.
The first thing was to find a place to stay for the
night. He walked over to the row of telephone booths
and looked up the Y. M. C. A. He jotted down the ad-
dress and looked around for someone to give him di-
Hollis walked out of the station and saw a taxi driver
leaning against his cab. He ought to know, Hollis
thought. He walked over to the driver.
The man saw him coming and reached for his bags.
** Where to? "he asked.
" I wonder if you could tell me how to get to the
Y. M. C. A.," said Hollis.
** Get in. Til take you right to the door."
Hollis looked dubiously at the cab. He had never
ridden in one before and didn't know what he might be
" I don't know," he said to the hack driver. " I think
a taxi is a little expensive for me."
The driver looked him over. " You can afford two
bits, can't you? "
Hollis grinned. " Sure. But I didn't know how far
I'd have to go."
He got into the cab, and in a few minutes he was be-
ing whisked through a terrifying maze of traffic. The
cabby talked over his shoulder to Hollis while he drove.
" First time in Motor City? "
"How do you like it?"
" I don't know," Hollis confessed. " It seems aw-
"Got a job here?"
HoUis leaned forward. " I'm supposed to be able
to get one with Vanguard Motors."
"Yeah? What's your trade?"
The cabby grunted. " I used to work there. But I
A pang of uncertainty shot through Hollis. Quit?
Why would anyone want to quit a job paying eighty
cents an hour to drive a cab? " Didn't you like It? '* he
The driver snorted. "What's there to like about
an assembly line? Say, I quit that joint before I went
nuts. It got so I was twitching In my sleep, thinking I
was fitting pistons."
" Fm a mechanic," HoUIs ventured. " Imagine FU
get some kind of mechanic's job."
The cabby wasn't convinced. *' You might, if you got
** I hear they make eighty cents an hour at the auto
plants," Hollls said. ** Is that right? "
The cabby looked back over his shoulder. ** Yeah,
some guys make that. Some make a lot more — and
some make less. Overtime counts up. Well, here's the
* Y,' kid."
Hollls got out and paid his quarter. " If you're
smart," said the cabby, " you'll find a room down In
Weston. That's where the Vanguard plant is located.
It's about fifteen miles out."
Hollls thanked the driver and went into the Y. M.
C. A. building. He rented a room and went straight
up, anxious to take a shower and change to some clean
clothes. When that was over he ate a lonely supper
and walked around the streets for a while.
The life of the city flowed past him on all sides. Ev-
eryone he saw seemed to be at home and he the only
stranger. He felt as though he were in a foreign land.
People went past him with their faces set and expres-
sionless, each hurrying to some destination. It was in
the faces of the people that HoUis noticed the greatest
difference between the folks In Holden and those in
Motor City. Many of the faces were pale, as though
they were seldom In the sun. And almost every face
was tense, as though the person was under some con-
The whole city seemed like that to Hollls — tense,
rushing, nervous, never stopping to rest or relax. He
felt as though he was In a gigantic whirlpool of human-
ity that went writhing and twisting at top speed with-
out ever finding a goal or resting place.
He looked In the lighted shop windows and saw
things displayed that he had never seen before. The
prices he saw shocked and staggered him. In one win-
dow he saw a fur coat for four thousand dollars. In
others he saw sets of furniture that cost many hundreds
of dollars and pieces of luggage that were calmly sold
for seventy-five or one hundred dollars each.
If there were prices like that — and there must be
people who could afford them — eighty cents an hour
didn't seem like so much, not half so much as it had
seemed In Holden.
Doubts gnawed at Hollls like mice in a corncrlb.
Here he was in a strange city, with half of his money
gone, and with his hopes badly shaken by what he had
heard. In that moment he wished he had never left
Holden, and he would have given every building in Mo-
tor City just to be back again in the garage with Pop.
Thinking of Pop made him go into a drugstore to
buy a post card. He picked one with a picture of the
Vanguard Motors plant on It and studied the picture.
What he saw was a bird's-eye view of a cluster of fac-
tory buildings that were big enough to make a fair-
sized little city. Hollis turned the card over, chewed
his pencil, and finally wrote :
I got here all right. Tm going out to see about the
job tomorrow. I'll write you a letter when I get set-
After he had mailed the card to Pop, Hollis walked
around a little more, and then returned to his room at
the " Y." He sat on the narrow bed and looked out
of the window at the thousands of lights that glowed in
the buildings. He had never felt so alone in all his life.
Finally he undressed and went to bed. Even after
he had turned out his light, the reflection of outside
lights brightened up his room. Hollis closed his eyes,
and all at once he was aware of the noise of the city
that never stops.
He heard the grinding streetcars roar through the
night — the great mass of sound that was a mixture of
motors and voices, punctuated sharply every few sec-
onds by the blast of an auto horn.
The voice of the city came to him out of the dark-
ness, and from a thousand streets. And the noise made
him feel his strangeness and loneliness more keenly
than any other thing. To the sound of this music Hol-
lis finally fell into a tired sleep, a weary, homesick sleep
that was troubled by vague, terrifying dreams.
When Hollis awoke the next morning, he didn't know
where he was for a minute. Then he remembered, and
jumped out of bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
Now, in the morning, he felt more confident than he
had the night before, and he was eager to get out to the
Vanguard plant. He dressed hurriedly, packed his
suitcase, and, carrying that in one hand and his tool
chest in the other, he checked out.
His first stop was for a light breakfast. He passed
a number of restaurants before he found one he had
nerve enough to go into. This was a place that adver-
tised its low prices with big signs, and Hollis knew
before he went in just how much he would have to spend.
He ate slowly. The food was tasteless after what
he had been used to in Holden, but it satisfied his hun-
ger. Around him, men and women gulped their food
hurriedly with one eye on the clock and the other on a
Again Hollis felt the nervous rush of the city — the
almost frenzied race to eat, work, eat, sleep, eat, and
work again. And again he was aware of the pale faces,
tense and drawn. Hollis drank his coffee slowly, and,
when he finished and got up from the counter, his seat
was immediately taken by a man who had been standing
behind him, waiting for a place.
City traffic was heavy. Busses and streetcars went
by, crammed with human cargo. The sidewalks were
solid with a teeming, rushing mass of pedestrians. Hol-
lis was caught up in the tide, pushed, bumped, jostled,
and shouldered from every side. He let himself drift
until he saw a policeman, whom he asked directions
about getting to Weston.
" Catch a Weston bus on this corner," the police-
man told him. ** ItUl take you right to the Vanguard
Hollis waited. A few moments later his bus came
along, almost filled. He moved toward it when the
door opened, but the crowd pushed past him, clawing
its way in. Hollis was caught and held fast in the strug-
gling throng. He didn't think it was right to push and
shove others, and, as a result, the bus was filled before
he could even get to the door. It moved off, leaving
him standing there.
When the next bus came, Hollis was in the front line.
The surge of the crowd behind him pushed him up to
the bus and inside. He found it awkward to move with
his baggage, but he climbed in.
A harassed bus driver was taking fares. "How
much to Weston?" Hollis asked.
" Ten cents," the driver snapped impersonally.
" Step lively, step lively. Move to the back of the bus,
Hollis had to put down his toolbox and search for a
dime. People tried to squeeze past him, tripping over
his box, shoving him, and treating him like some inani-
mate obstacle. Those who were trying to get on, and
who couldn't see, just pushed. Finally, red and sweat-
ing, Hollis found a dime and put it in the slot. He
picked up his toolbox and squeezed into the bus.
Once the bus started, he was glad it was so tightly
packed. He had no room to put down his baggage, and
his fellow passengers were packed tightly against him.
But despite the shaking and spurting of the bus, It was
impossible to fall.
Hollis rode for over half an hour before the crowd
began to thin a little. Then he was able to look out of
the window and see where he was going.
The city had given way to vast flats and many small
ugly residences. Back of the little business sections the
tall chimneys of factories stood smoking against the
sky. A pall of smoke hung over everything, gray, dirty,
and hazy. Great square factory buildings covered many
acres of ground, railroad tracks crisscrossed empty lots,
and piles of old iron and junk seemed to be every place.
In all, it was a bleak, dismal looking affair, and a
far cry from the clean green fields of Iowa.
Weston was a collection of stores and houses that
clustered around the Vanguard plant like a flock of tiny
bedraggled chicks around the mother hen. The bus
rolled through its streets and stopped near the Van-
guard gate. All the passengers got out. The bus
driver relaxed and stretched, and prepared to make the
Hollis got out of the bus, took three steps — and
stopped. What he saw stunned him — set him back on
his heels and left him gasping.
Somehow he had imagined the Vanguard plant to
be a tremendous factory — a giant, smoking building.
But what he saw was another city. As far as his eye
could see a high wire fence stretched In both directions,
and behind that fence were dozens of gigantic build-
ings. More than buildings, there were storage tanks,
lines of railroad tracks, cranes, and scores of tower-
ing, smoking chimneys. And it all went back, far, far
back, beyond sight.
He saw a freight train pulling a long line of cars
through the plant grounds. It looked like a toy. He
saw one of the parking places — and it was covered
with thousands of cars, and more thousands streamed
through the gates.
And men! All the men in the world seemed to be
coming on foot, alighting from busses, and swarming
into the gates.
Hollis stood before this colossus and stared. He
seemed to shrink in size until he felt as tiny as the small-
est speck in the universe. The vastness of the plant
made him seem to shrivel into nothingness, and his
heavy toolbox, so carefully built up and assembled, be-
came less than puny.
Hollis went to the gate. He had started through,
when a guard reached out and caught his arm. The
burly watchman pulled him to one side. " Let's see
" I don't have one," said Hollis. ** I'm looking for
the personnel manager."
The guard looked him over. " You're at the wrong
gate. Office building is at the south end. That's about
" How do I get there?"
*'Got a car?"
Hollis shook his head.
The guard laughed. " Well, you've got feet. Pick
'em up and put 'em down, son, and you'll get there."
The guard left Hollis to examine passes. Hollis
took a firmer grip on his suitcase and toolbox and
It seemed like ten miles. The suitcase and box
weighed like iron before he had gone very far. Yet
Hollis walked alongside the high fence, plodding on-
ward, and looking through at the plant. The farther he
went the more the plant unfolded. There were long,
low buildings that it took him several minutes to pass,
and always behind these buildings others could be seen
in the background, piling back as far as he could see.
At last, dusty and tired, Hollis reached the main office
building. He went in through swinging doors, and
found himself in a palace — wide corridors, murals on
the walls, expensive wood and leather fixtures, and
well-dressed people working at their desks.
HolHs consulted a big directory and found the per-
sonnel office. It was on the third floor. He picked up
his baggage again and walked up.
He went in the right door and found himself in a
room the size of a large hall. It was filled with men
who sat around on folding chairs. All were poorly or
roughly dressed. Most of them wore some variation
of working clothes. A steady hum of conversation
sounded in the hot room, and those who did not talk
or read sat and looked out of the window or tried to
Hollis found a chair and sat down. He took off his
jacket and rolled up his sleeves, disclosing a pair of
strong, tanned arms.
While he sat there, more men came in. Hollis saw
them go up to a window marked " Information " and
get small cards. Then they found places to sit. Hollls
folded his coat on his chair and also went to the win-
A young, severe-looking girl sat at the window.
"What department?" she asked mechanically, with-
out looking up.
** I wanted to see about getting a job," Hollis said.
*' In what department? " the girl said, sounding an-
'* I don't know," said Hollls. " What departments
have you got? "
The girl thought he was trying to be sarcastic and
swung around to face him. '* We're only interviewing
men with previous experience," she said. " Do you
have any? "
Hollis drew out the card that Franks had given him
that rainy night. He handed it to the girl. " I fixed
his car last week," said Hollis, " and he told me if I
came here I could get a job."
The girl's attitude softened a bit. '*Take this num-
ber," she said, " and we'll call you when it comes up."
Hollis took a small card from her. His number was
84. He went back to his seat, still looking at the card.
Number 84. He was a number now. A man's name
didn't seem to mean anything here.
When he sat down again a short stocky man in the
next seat looked him over. "This your stuff?" he
asked, pointing to the suitcase and toolbox.
" I wouldn't go off and leave it," said the man. " You
might not find it again."
Hollis felt an unpleasant sensation. '* Thanks," he
said. " I didn't think anyone would steal It, though.
It isn't worth very much."
The other man, who wore a pair of summer slacks
and a work shirt, folded his heavy arms and smiled
grimly. " You're from the country, aren't you?"
Hollis flushed and nodded.
" I thought so. Sticks out all over you. Look, kid.
You're not in the country now. Around here it's every
man for himself, see? Nobody cares for nobody else
— not like the country, where everybody knows every-
body else. If you've got something, hang onto it, be-
cause, if It's any good at all, somebody will try to take
it away. And that goes for jobs as well as anything
**ril be careful," promised Hollis.
" What you got in that box? Tools?"
" What do you expect to do with them? '*
*' I'm a mechanic," said Hollis, *' and I've worked
with those tools for a long time. I've got the feel of
them. So when I came here to get a job, I thought I'd
bring them along."
" You won't need 'em," said the man bluntly. *' See
around this room? It's full of mechanics. For that
matter, so is all Motor City. But they don't have any
tools. The company owns the tools, kid. It used to be
that a mechanic brought his tools to the job, but that
was In the old days. Now the company owns the tools.
All a man can offer Is his labor. Your tools won't be
any good here even if they let you use theml "
" They ain't specialized. They're garage tools, for
all-around repair. In here you use the one or two tools
that have been built to do one special job and no more.
Maybe it's a hammer, or a wrench, or a screw driver.
But whatever it is, it's been built for one special opera-
tion, and that's the one you do, and the tool you use."
Number 27 flashed on the call board. " That's my
number," said the man. " Good luck, kid."
" Thanks," said HoUis. " Same to you."
HoUis sat on the chair all morning, while the num-
bers were slowly called. At noon the other men ate
lunches that they had brought in sacks or lunch boxes.
But Hollis, who hadn't foreseen this situation, went
without lunch. He sat hungry and a bit discouraged
as the day wore on and he was not called.
His number flashed about three o'clock. HoUis took
his belongings with him, heeding the warning he had
received in the morning. He was shown into a small
office lined with filing cabinets. A somewhat weary
personnel official motioned for him to sit down.
** This is your first application for work here ? " The
official looked through some papers. *' I don't have
any record of you."
'* I just came to Motor City," said Hollis. " Mr.
Franks said I could get a job here."
The official took out an application blank and pre-
pared to fill it in.
" Hollis MacEachron."
" Holden, Iowa."
" No, no. I mean here."
" I haven^t any yet."
" Previous job experience? "
" IVe been a mechanic in Pop Farnham's garage in
Holden ever since I was in high school," said HoUis.
" That's where I fixed Mr. Franks's car, and then he
told me to come here if I wanted a job."
" Have you had any kind of machine experience?
Tool and die? Lathe? Any kind of assembly-line
work? Foundry? Anything like that ? "
Hollis shook his head slowly. " Just been a me-
chanic, that's all."
The interviewer leaned back in his chair.
"That's all right," he said brightly. *' Mechanics
"But I know — " Hollis started.
"We're putting men on in final assembly," the per-
sonnel man interrupted, consulting a bulletin on his
desk. " There are some tests and the health examina-
tion. If you pass them, I'll send you down there."
The next hour was a bewildering session of questions
and answers for Hollis. He stuck out his tongue for
medical observation, had his chest pounded, his blood
pressure taken, and his eyes examined. After that he
was given a long list of questions about his past health
When he was through with the medical examination
Hollis found himself facing several other examiners,
one after the other. One gave him pieces of wood to
fit together, another made him repeat numbers back-
ward, and a third tested him in logic.
Then he returned to the personnel man for the final
verdict. He was given an identification card.
" YouUl start out at fifty-seven cents an hour," he
was told. " You'll be raised if you do all right."
HoUis said " thank you " and went out. Fifty-seven
cents an hour. That was almost twenty-three dollars
a week. Less than he had expected, but still, it was
much more than he had made at Holden.
Anyway he was glad to be out in the normal world
again. And to know that he had a job. And while he
was on this job, he was to learn later, he was to ask no
questions, answer none, draw his pay, and do his work.
The next step right now was to look for a room.
Hollis made the long hot trek back to the main gate.
He would try to find the nearest place to that.
From the gate he walked into the town. What he
saw was less than encouraging. The side streets were
lined with houses that were grimy from the smoke of
the factory chimneys. There was a bare, hard look
about the place and a grim monotony in the way most
of the houses were built exactly alike.
Hollis walked slowly down the street, looking for
some place that had a " For Rent " sign. He saw sev-
eral, but passed them up. They were big gloomy frame
houses, built like big square boxes, with dark shades
at the windows. In some of the rooms he could see
ugly iron beds.
So Hollis walked and looked for a place that seemed
a little more homelike. He was about to give up when
he saw another large house with a " Room and Board "
sign in a front window.
This house had been painted fairly recently, and
there were white curtains at the windows. Somehow,
there was a personal touch about the place, as though
someone had tried to make a home of it. HoUis turned
in at the walk and knocked at the front door.
A tall old woman with white hair let him in.
**rd like to see about a room, ma'am,** said Hollis.
" Vanguard worker? " asked the woman.
" I start tomorrow."
*'Come in and sit down," she said. " You look all
tuckered out. Where are you from? "
*' Holden, Iowa," said Hollis, sitting down in a
rocker. *' I thought Fd like it here better than at some
of the places I just passed."
" Maybe you will," she agreed. *' If you want to live
here, you'll find other boys who work at Vanguard. It's
fifteen dollars a week for room and board. If you want
me to do your laundry, that's fifty cents more."
" That's quite a lot for me," said Hollis.
*'You won't find any other place much cheaper,"
said the woman. ** And they're not all as nice as my
place. I try to make my boys feel at home."
Hollis thought of the dreary places he had seen be-
fore he came here. He couldn't see himself living in one
of them. At least here he would have comfortable sur-
roundings and some friendship. He was tired of be-
ing alone and wanted to make friends quickly. " I'll
take it, ma'am," said Hollis.
" If you want to share a room with one of the boys
you could do that for twelve dollars," said the landlady.
" Jerry's a nice boy — about your age, I'd say. Easy
to get along with."
" Tell you what," said Hollis. " I'll take a room
until I can talk with Jerry. If we seem to get along, I'll
move in with him. Will that be all right? "
The woman smiled. " Certainly. Now, what's your
name? I'm Mrs. Billings."
" I'm Hollis MacEachron."
" Welcome, Hollis. I'm sure you'll find this a nice
place to live."
*' Would you like some money now, Mrs. Billings?"
Hollis asked hesitantly.
*' That's the general rule," she answered. " If you
can spare it."
Hollis gave her fifteen dollars. " If I move in with
Jerry you can keep the other three toward next week."
Mrs. Billings folded the money and put it in her
apron pocket. *' I'll show you to your room, Hollis.
By the time you wash up and rest a little, supper will
Hollis grinned, and his blue eyes shone for the first
time since he had left home. " It sure will be good to
get some home cooking again," he said. " Restaurant
food is all right once in a while, but after a day or two
you get mighty sick of it."
"You'll like my cooking," Mrs. Billings promised.
" All the boys do. And most of them put on a few
pounds after they're here awhile. You could stand a
little more weight yourself."
Hollls picked up his belongings and started for the
stairs. He stopped with one foot on the first step to
turn around and ask a last question: "Are there any
churches near here? **
"Churches?" Mrs. Billings wasn't sure she had
heard him correctly.
" That's what I said," Hollis smiled.
Mrs. Billings smoothed her apron. " Let me see.
We do have a few not far from here. Two blocks
south and six west there are three or four different ones
right in a row. You can take your choice."
"Thank you," said Hollis. " I'll go over Sunday."
" You won't have any company from this house,"
Mrs. Billings told him. " The boys who don't work
on Sunday sleep most of the day. Some of them go a
couple of times a year."
" I've always been pretty steady," said Hollis, go-
ing up the steps. He found his room and went in. He
hung up his clothes, took off his shoes, and stretched
out on the bed, feeling very tired. While he rested, he
heard some of the other men in the house come home
from the plant. Their voices were plain and friendly
as they talked. Hollis stretched out and smiled at the
ceiHng. There were some things about Motor City he
was going to like.
BEFORE HE WAS FULLY AWARE THAT HE WAS TIRED,
Hollis fell asleep. He was awakened by the sound of
Mrs. Billings calling, " Hollis, supper's ready.'*
Hollis rolled off the bed and put on his shoes. He
was still a little drugged with sleep and in a tired haze.
He dashed some cold water on his face, pushed his hair
back with his palm, and went downstairs to eat, and to
meet the other men who lived in the house.
The others, five in all, were all over the house. Two
of them were hidden behind newspapers, a third lay on
his back in front of the radio, the fourth was sprawled
on the couch talking to the rest, although they weren't
listening. The fifth was at the table in the dining room,
munching on a piece of bread and butter.
Hollis paused on the last step and murmured a low
greeting to the man at the table, who mumbled, " Hi-
ya," with a mouth full of food.
Hollis didn't know whether to walk into the living
room or sit at the table, so he remained by the stairs.
Mrs. Billings solved that problem for him by bustling
in with a platter of steaming food and saying, " Hollis,
you sit here/* pointing out a chair at one side of the
Hollis sat down in his chair. The man already at the
table paid little attention to him. The impatient one,
like the others, was dressed in ordinary working clothes.
Also like the others, he was husky. But, despite the
fact that it was the middle of the summer, all their faces
were pale with the particular pallor of men who spend
their time indoors. By contrast, Hollis' deep tan made
him seem almost of another color.
Mrs. Billings went into the living room and went
around firmly taking the newspapers away and shutting
off the radio. She scolded the men as though they
were little boys.
" Everything will get cold," she said. " My land,
it*s a problem to get you to the table at every meal. I
don't see how you ever grew up, any of you."
The man on the floor in front of the radio sat up.
He was about twenty-five, with a round face that broke
up into a thousand merry wrinkles when he smiled.
" Have a heart. Ma," he pleaded. "After a day at
Vanguard it's a wonder we can even sit up at the table."
He rose to his feet groaning.
" What's the matter, Jerry? " one of the newspaper
readers asked. " That new job getting you down ? "
" Yeah," said Jerry. " For three years I've been
used to moving my muscles from left to right. Now I've
got a job that makes me move from right to left. My
muscles aren't used to it."
The others laughed and joined him to walk into the
dining room. They all looked at Hollis when they
came In, and then looked at one another understand-
*'This is Hollls MacEachron," said Mrs. Billings.
** Hollls, these are the men you'll have to put up with
If you live here. She made introductions around. The
early diner was Pete Strebo; the man at the radio,
Jerry Landis; the two readers, both older men, were
Harry Weldon and John Machok; and the talker,
'' Gabby " Barnett.
*' That's the only name we know him by," said Mrs.
Billings, referring to Barnett. *' You'll see why after
you're around here long enough."
Hollis nodded to each in turn as the Introduction was
made, and they nodded back.
Once these formahties were over, five pairs of work-
worn hands reached for the food and began loading
Conversation was mainly about work and personali-
ties at the plant. There was much Hollis did not un-
derstand, but he listened intently. Just listening seemed
to bring him closer to the great manufacturing plant
in which he was to work. By the time coffee and pie
were served, he felt that he was becoming a part of the
Being new, Hollis was of interest to the others. They
asked him the usual questions about where he was from,
whether he had ever worked in an automobile plant
before, where he was going to start in, and so on.
** I'm surprised you got on," said Gabby. " The
switch from civilian to military production has brought
on a lot of layoffs."
** It*s a good thing ' jeeps ' need headlights," said
Jerry. " It's funny, Hollis, but a lot of men don't like
to change jobs. If a man in motor assembly is laid off,
sometimes he'll take his chances and wait for another
motor job before taking one that is open in some other
department, like body assembly."
" It's like you said, Jerry," said Harry Weldon in his
slow way. '' A man's muscles get used to moving one
way, and it's hard to get them to move another."
Harry, who spoke with a slight English accent, was near
forty. He looked tired, in spite of the fact that he was
larger than the average man. It was not so much a
physical tiredness that Harry showed as it was a cer-
tain spiritual weariness. Hollis got the impression that
Harry carried dead hopes inside him, and that their
weight was heavy.
The men drifted back into the living room. Harry
and John returned to the newspapers, Pete went out,
and Jerry and Gabby sat to talk with Hollis. Perhaps,
being young themselves, they felt a little closer to Hol-
lis than the others did. Gabby was also about twenty-
five, but in contrast to Jerry's round, good-natured face,
Gabby's was sharp and lean, and he had a habit of
bending forward as though he were about to leap into
some kind of action. His nervousness was shown by the
way his hands were always busy. Either he drummed
with his fingers or turned a pencil in them, or else he
chewed at his nails. It was tiring to be with him very
" Will I be working with any of you ? " Hollis asked.
Jerry shook his head. " No. Gabby and I are both
In motor assembly, Pete's In the paint shop, Harry's
over at the foundry, and John is In the forge."
^Td hoped I would be," said Hollls. " I wouldn't
feel so strange If I could look over and see someone I
knew. Kind of moral support."
Jerry smiled appreciatively. " I know how you feel.
I was the same way when I first came here three years
ago. I was from a little town In Ohio — In fact, you'll
find a lot of fellows like yourself here, who came from
small towns. Especially from Kentucky and Virginia."
" It really doesn't make much difference," said Gabby.
" Each department is so big that two men might work
in the same section for ten years and never know each
other. That even goes for the men you work with.
You're too busy even to notice who the man next to you
Jerry saw Hollls wrinkle his forehead uncertainly,
and hastened to reassure him. '' It's not quite that bad,
Hollls. But there Isn't much time to talk, and you do
have to move right along."
'' They told me at the employment office," said Hol-
lls, " that I might have gotten a better job If I had been
something else but a mechanic. That's still a little hard
for me to understand. But with you speaking about
foundries and forges. It sounds as though this Is a pretty
big place after all. Still, it doesn't seem right that
a mechanic can't find a place where they make
John Machok put down his paper. He was a short,
powerful Croat, with a black mustache and powerful
arms. *' The machines," he said, '* they do the thlnk-
ing. The men — they just stand and take care of the
" In the old days, when work was done by hand, there
was chance for good craftsmen. Take where I work.
I tend a mechanical hammer. The machine is maybe
twenty, thirty feet high. I put in a piece of white-hot
steel and pull a lever. Down comes the hammer. In
one blow it makes a complete part. Makes it better
than a man could do by hand if he worked two month."
John lapsed back into silence. HoUis was impressed
with the bitterness in John's words.
** Isn't there any place for a good mechanic ? '* HoUis
asked, clinging to a thread of hope.
" Sure," said Gabby. *' But not auto mechanics.
They use good men in the tool and die work, and there
are a lot of good machinists at work. But you don't
have a chance there."
" I'd like a try," said Hollis. ** If it had to do with
machines, I'd soon learn to get along."
*' You'll never get that chance," said Jerry. " The
openings are all filled with graduates of the Apprentice
" The stooge assembly line," said Gabby bitterly.
Jerry gave him a quick, hard look. " That's where
they train kids," he said. *' They take them out of high
school and put them in what amounts to a technical
school. They earn and learn. When they're through,
they're ready to step into skilled jobs with the com-
*' That sounds like a good thing to me," said HoUis.
" It's more of a chance than I ever had."
" There's nothing wrong with the technical training,"
Jerry explained. *' All of us will admit that the Van-
guard school does a good job. It's the other stuff they
teach the kids."
" They get company propaganda pounded into them
from every side," complained Gabby. " Then, when
they get into the shops, they think it their duty to be
stool pigeons. And you can be sure they're rewarded
by getting the promotions."
** Stool pigeons? " HoUis was puzzled. "What's
** You are from the country," said Gabby. " Well, a
stool pigeon is a low-down, dirty — "
Jerry burst out laughing. " I'll tell you, Hollis.
* Stool pigeon ' is what we call a man who runs to the
company with information about what the men are say-
ing. If somebody complains about something and a
stoolie hears it, he runs to the straw bosses and tells
them. The next thing you know, the guy who com-
plained is looking for a job."
" Does Vanguard do that? "
*' Do it I " snorted John. " They invented it."
Harry Weldon joined in the conversation to chide
the others. " Take it easy on the lad," he admonished.
" You make the plant sound worse than a concentration
camp. If he's a man he'll get along." Harry leaned
back. " We're there," he said dully. "Why, I don't
know. But we are. And if the lad thinks he wants to
work in the plant, he'll find out the good and bad for
To Hollis, the question wasn't so simple. So far, he
had heard many unpleasant things about the Vanguard
plant. He had been given a brief glimpse of what mass
production meant to the individual. These men seemed
to hate their work, which was something Hollis could
not understand. And yet, if they hated their work and
the plant they worked for, why didn't they do some-
thing about it?
Hollis put that Into words. " Isn't there anything
you can do to stand up for your rights ? " he asked. " If
you're not getting treated right, why don't you do some-
His question had a strange effect on the others. In-
stead of giving him an answer, they shut up. Harry
and John picked up their newspapers and began to read.
Jerry looked vacantly at the wall. Gabby chewed at his
nails and stared at the floor.
Hollis looked at them in wonderment. Then he was
aware that they were looking at him with searching
eyes when they thought he was looking away. The
warmth and friendliness of their talk suddenly chilled
into a frozen silence. Jerry got up and turned on the ra-
dio. Gabby started talking about some sporting event.
Hollis went over to Jerry. He felt that he could
talk to him better than to the others. " What hap-
pened? " Hollis asked. "Did I say something
'* It wasn't you," said Jerry. " It was us." He
smiled at Hollis, but there was a grimness in his smile.
" You seem to be what you said, Hollis — just a boy
from the country. But let me give you a word of warn-
ing : Don't try to lead people into saying things. You
might get In trouble/'
Gabby stood up and stretched, yawning. " I'm hit-
ting the hay," he announced. He went upstairs and Into
his room. They could hear him singing off key.
Cabby's departure was the cue for others to go off,
one by one, until only Jerry and Hollis were left.
" Have any working clothes with you? " Jerry asked
" A couple of old shirts and an old pair of pants."
" They'll do. I was going to say that If you didn't
have any, I had some extra that you could borrow until
The offer pleased Hollis. It was one of the few
gestures of friendship that had been made toward him
since his arrival. The very fact that another person
had even thought of his problems made the world seem
a little less cold, and much better to live In. Motor
City, thought Hollis, could be the same as any town.
There was always someone who was willing to lend a
hand and help a fellow.
They walked toward the stairs together. " We'll go
out together tomorrow," Jerry advised. " I have to go
past body assembly to get to my work, so I'll be able to
drop you off at the right place."
Hollis thanked him again and went Into his room.
He thought over the proposition of having Jerry as a
roommate. Jerry probably knew about the matter, and
Hollis figured that his friendliness indicated that he was
ready to accept him. Jerry, thought HoUis, appeared
to be the kind of fellow he could room with. He de-
cided to make the change.
Hollis and Jerry did leave together the next morning.
Gabby walked with them for a way, but then he had to
turn off to go through another gate. Although both
Jerry and Gabby worked in motor assembly, the build-
ing that housed them was a quarter of a mile long, and
as far as contact between them was concerned they could
have been working in different cities.
The flowing river of men and cars was at full flood.
The endless thousands swarmed to the plant in the
early morning. The way they went through the gates
reminded Hollis of the way cattle looked when they
were being driven into a corral. .
The swirl and flow of the crowd seemed to swing In
one direction. Something at the side of the gate seemed
to be attracting part of the stream. Hollis looked
over, interested. He tugged Jerry's arm. " Hey,
look," said Hollis.
Three men, each with an armful of leaflets, had got-
ten out of a car that had been driven near the gate of
the plant. The men worked in toward the gate, hand-
ing out their leaflets to all who would accept them.
What caught Hollis* eye was activity within the gate
of the plant. Against the flow of men going in, a group
of some ten men in business suits were pushing their
Hollis had never seen plain-clothes company police
before, but as soon as he saw the men coming away
from the plant he knew there was trouble ahead. They
were, without exception, big men. Hollls noticed the
way In which they shouldered their way through the
crowd, pushing and shoving, with scant regard for any-
one. He noticed also that those who were pushed
didn't stop to complain or look around : they just kept
The crowd of men around the leaflet distributors
broke and scattered. Hollls could see everything.
The men with the leaflets saw the group coming out
of the plant. They tried not to seem concerned, but
Hollls saw them casting frequent glances in the direc-
tion of the squad that was bearing down on them. The
three men moved closer together, as though for pro-
All this time they still held out their leaflets, speak-
ing to the men who were going in. Hollls cast a side-
long glance at Jerry. Jerry's face was white, and tense.
*' What's going on? " HolHs asked.
" Don't talk," Jerry hissed back. " Don't talk and
don't look around. Keep on walking toward the plant."
Jerry's tone sent a chill through Hollls. He sensed
the violence that was in the air.
Hollls looked around. He saw the squad approach
the three men and surround them. Although their
voices didn't carry to him, Hollls could see that they
were talking — arguing.
Suddenly one of the squad of ten swung his arm,
knocking the leaflets out of the hands of one of the three
men. The distributor bent down to pick up his scattered
leaflets. The moment he bent, he was kicked by an-
other squad member and sent sprawling.
The kick was the signal for the opening of hostilities.
Three squad men each picked one of the men with leaf-
lets. In a moment the ground was Uttered with paper
as the three men went down under the attack.
Hollls^ mouth was dry. He saw the man who had
been kicked try to rise. As he did, one of the squad men
grabbed the rising man and pulled the back of his jacket
up over his head, pinning his arms. At the same time
the other two men slugged the helpless man with their
fists, pounding him unmercifully. He went down, tried
to rise, and was knocked down again.
It was the same with the other two. They tried
vainly to defend themselves against fists, brass knuckles,
and blackjacks. They were clubbed repeatedly, beaten
about the head and face, and kicked.
One of the men went down. The squad men beat him
with their clubs while he lay prostrate. That was too
much for HoUis. He forgot everything except the fact
that helpless human beings were being beaten.
An exclamation of anger rasped from his throat.
Once aroused, the calm, even-natured Hollis was
aroused with the entire fury of his body. He started
running toward the scene of the fighting, almost cry-
ing with anger.
Hollis felt someone grab him and try to stop him.
He tried to shake off the restraining hands, but they
pulled him back. Hollis was brought to a standstill,
still struggling to get away. Then he realized that it
was Jerry who was holding him — Jerry, whose white
face was twisted as though he were in agony.
" Hollis — Hollis I Stop it, Hollis I "
Hollls tried to break loose. *' It's not fair," HoUis
shouted. " They can't do that. Why doesn't someone
Jerry pushed the protesting Hollis toward the plant
" You don't understand, Hollis. Calm down and
come with me. You'd be killed if you tried to inter-
Hollis stood still, trembling. The squad had stopped
beating the men. The three lay on the ground —
sprawled in the awkward positions in which they had
been left. Hollis saw the squad men putting away
their clubs and mopping their brows with white hand-
A siren walled In the morning air, and a police car
came tearing from the direction of Motor City, screech-
ing to a stop by the group of men.
Hollis was exultant. ** Now they'll get it," he cried.
" The police will show them. They ought to get ten
years for doing that. I'll be a witness too." Hollis
started toward the fallen men, and again Jerry had to
drag him back by main force.
** Don't be a fool," Jerry grated. " The police
aren't going to do anything to the company men."
The police jumped out of their car and approached
the scene of battle. Hollis saw the company men greet
the police and point at the fallen men. The police-
men dragged the fallen men to their feet and shoved
them Into their car. One of the policemen playfully
slapped at the last man with his club as he pushed him
Hollls knew that he was being led away by Jerry.
The white heat of anger that had taken possession of
him was now diluted by confusion. " Where are they
taking the three men? " he asked dully. " To the hos-
Jerry shook his head grimly. " To jail," he said,
finding it hard to control his voice. " To jail."
"Jail?" Hollis found that his own voice sounded
unnatural and far away. '' I don't understand — that's
not right, Jerry. The other bunch started the fight. I
Jerry looked around. They were far enough away
from other men for him to speak. *' Look, Hollis," he
said. *' I can't explain much now. Those three men
were union organizers. The union is poison around
here. If anybody hears you take their side, you'll get
a dose of the same thing. So keep quiet, and I'll tell
you what it's about tonight."
They went through the gate. Just through it they
were stopped by a uniformed guard and two squad men
in plain clothes.
They stopped Jerry first. One of the plain-clothes
men growled, " Carrying any leaflets? "
The second man looked closely at Jerry. " I think
this guy is one of the agitators," he said. " Let's frisk
" Frisking " was a quick, thorough search of Jerry's
clothes. The company men seemed disappointed when
they found nothing. *' You're too smart to carry them
things in here, ain't you I " one of the men snarled.
" But you better watch your step, buddy. We got an
eye on you Reds."
Hollis took his turn. Some of the fury still remained
in him, although he retained sufficient control over him-
self not to make any rash actions or statements.
Jerry was waiting for Hollis a few feet farther on.
One of the guards swung on him. " Get going," or-
dered the guard, prodding Jerry with his club. " Your
friend don't need any help."
Jerry moved on, but Hollis caught a gleam of terri-
ble hatred in his eyes before he turned and walked
*' Any leaflets ? " they asked Hollis.
*' Oh," said one of the guards. " A wise guy, eh? "
*' No," said Hollis. *' I just don't know what you're
after. This is my first day here."
They searched him as they had Jerry.
They found nothing. Disgusted, they pushed him
on his way. Hollis stumbled, almost falling. " I don't
like that," he said.
The guards, who had been ready to examine the next
man, turned on Hollis. They advanced on him as they
had advanced on the unfortunate union men a short
The men stood very close to Hollis — so close that
he had to step backward to prevent them from pushing
him off balance. He saw cruelty in their eyes and no-
ticed, even in this moment, that their faces wore the
marks and scars of many battles.
" An agitator, eh? " said the first, using what seemed
to be a favorite phrase. " Listen, bo, this ain't only
your first day here, it's gonna be your last. And be-
fore we get through with you, you'll wish you didn't
ever come around to stir up trouble."
He stepped forward, as though to begin a violent
attack, but his companion pulled him back. " Not here,
Mike," he muttered. *' Too much is too much. Let's
take him to the examination room."
The men each took hold of one of HoUis' arms,
clamping him tightly above the elbow and starting him
forward. There was no resisting their powerful force.
Hollis was half carried forward. As he was taken past
the first building, he saw that Jerry had been waiting
for him. When Jerry saw Hollis being taken away by
the company men, his face became a mask of dismay
and horror. The sight of his face made Hollis feel, for
the first time in his life, a gnawing, ugly fear.
The " examination " room was a bare cellar, fur-
nished with one chair and one table. Hollis was pushed
down in the chair while the two men began to remove
their coats. Hollis knew what was coming.
The first man, burly to the point of almost breaking
out of his vest, lit a cigar. He puffed in silence, boring
at Hollis with his eyes. Hollis looked back, his own
The man got ofif the table where he had been sitting.
With the cigar still in his mouth, he grabbed Hollis by
the shirt front and yanked him to his feet. He slapped
Hollis hard, full in the face. " That's for being fresh,"
he said, and pushed Hollis back into his chair.
The other man, who had left the room, came in.
" Chief will be here in a minute," he said. " Then we'll
examine this punk." He began to roll up his sleeves
with deliberate unconcern. When he raised his arms,
HoUis could see the bulge under his vest where a bol-
stered pistol was kept. Both men had the loops of small
clubs drooping from their back pockets. Hollis hoped
for strength and courage to face his test.
THE TWO MEN PREPARED METHODICALLY FOR THE
task at hand. It never seemed to occur to them that
Hollis was a human being. It was as though they were
preparing to start work at any routine task — one in
which they were skilled.
Hollis felt great physical fear. That, he did not
deny to himself. But more than the fear of violence
was the feeling of helplessness. To be attacked and
even beaten as a man is one thing, because a man can
fight back, and retain his dignity even in defeat.
But to be dragged to a cellar for the purpose of re-
ceiving an inhuman, impersonal punishment, was some-
thing entirely different. It was cold, and machinelike.
Not even rage or hatred would accompany this violence.
There was nothing personal involved. He was not
Hollis MacEachron, a man they wished to destroy.
He was merely a ripple in the smooth stream that had
to be dispersed — an anonymous stone to be removed.
While these preparations went forward the " Chief "
came in. He was a slight man, neatly dressed, with
mild, pale eyes that looked out from behind a pair of
At the sight of him, Hollis felt more hope. Some-
how this quiet man did not fit into the picture of the
expected violence. He was a man, Hollis felt, who
could be talked to and reasoned with.
The new arrival sat on the table and looked down at
Hollis. One of the other men walked over to Hollis on
heavy, deliberate feet. " Want me to make him talk? **
he asked casually.
The Chief looked slightly shocked. " Has he re-
fused to answer any of your questions, Mike? "
Mike shook his head. " We haven't asked him any.
But you know what these agitators are like. They al-
ways need a little persuasion."
" I don't think that will be necessary, Mike," said
the Chief softly. *' Will it?" He directed his last
question at Hollis.
*' I've got nothing to hide," said Hollis, speaking to
the Chief. " Ask me anything. Truth is, I'd like to
know what it's all about."
The Chief sighed, as though he were a man much
imposed upon. *' That's what you all say," he com-
plained mildly. " Do they teach you what to say when
you are caught? "
"Does who what?" asked Hollis. He was trying
to make sense out of what was going on.
The Chief dropped his mild tone, and in that mo-
ment Hollis saw that it had been only a mask. The
eyes that he had regarded as pale and weak did not
change expression. In fact, as Hollis saw, they had no
expression. They were cold, soulless.
" You won't get very far playing stupid,'* said the
Chief In a flat, dangerous tone. " My assistants will
get the truth out of you by force if necessary. I think
it better if you spare me the painful duty of allowing
them to handle the questioning."
The Chief opened a black notebook and took out a
pen. " Are you prepared to answer my questions," he
" I have been telling the truth," Hollis replied, his
irritation showing in his tone.
The Chief Ignored his answer, but asked him the
first question. " Who sent you here to make trouble? "
Hollis was silent. The Chief looked at him. " An-
swer me,'* he demanded.
" That isn't a question," said Hollis. '* It's an ac-
The Chief lost patience. " You might as well tell the
truth," he threatened, his voice rising. " We know all
about you and your kind. The union sent you, didn't
it? The union sent you In here to agitate and make
trouble. That's true, Isn't It? " He pointed an accus-
ing finger at Hollis.
*' It's not," said Hollis, jumping out of his chair.
Mike moved toward him swiftly and pushed him
back again. " Watch your tongue," Mike growled.
** Why don't you give me a chance? " said Hollis to
the Chief. " I'll tell you how I happened to get here if
you'll just Hsten to me."
The Chief glanced at his watch. " All right, but
make it fast. I can't spend all day with you."
" This is my first day here," said Hollis. " I just
came to Motor City yesterday."
The other guard sneered. ** Then how does it hap-
pen that you walk to work with Jerry Landis ? I sup-
pose you ran into him by accident. Just like it's ' acci-
dental ' that he's one of the big union agitators."
" I don't know anything about Jerry," Hollis an-
swered. " He happens to live where I do. The reason
I came was that Mr. Franks — "
The Chief jumped off the table. " Mr. who? "
" Mr. Franks," said Hollis. " I fixed his car in
Iowa a week or so ago, and he gave me a card to get a
The Chief slammed his notebook down on the table.
" Why didn't you tell us? " he demanded. '' You not
only wasted our time, but you just missed getting
beaten up. You can trust us."
Hollis blinked. He was more confused than ever.
He looked from one to the other. The Chief had re-
laxed. The two plug-uglies were putting their coats
on again. One of them looked at Hollis and winked
broadly. "Some actor, eh, Mike?" he said admir-
The Chief prepared to go. " You've made a good
start," he said to Hollis, " being able to room with
Jerry Landis. But you almost overdid it." He chuck-
led and walked out.
Hollis concealed his bewilderment. Something was
afoot, but he wasn't sure what it was. One thing
seemed clear — they no longer regarded him as an en-
emy. Why, he didn't know.
Mike and his companion said to Hollis : " Get ready
to act again, kid. We're gonna take you out. But just
so nobody will get suspicious, we'll make out that we're
treating you rough." They both laughed at the joke.
The Chief came back into the room. " Where are
you working? " he asked Hollis.
" On headlights."
** Hmmm. Think you could handle a speed wrench ? '*
**I never have," Hollis admitted, "but if it's a
wrench, I'll tackle it."
The Chief nodded. *' Good. We need you in that
department. It's a sore spot. I'll change your work
card, and you can start right in."
The two strong-arm men took hold of Hollis again,
but this time he could tell the difference in their atti-
tude. They pretended to hustle him out of the build-
ing and, once in the open, they did release him with a
shove that almost sent him sprawling.
Hollis turned to look at them. They were grinning
at each other and brushing off their hands to indicate
a completed job. Hollis walked away slowly, looking
for the building where he was to work.
His mind was still in a whirl of confusion. The rapid
succession of startling incidents that had just taken place
did not seem quite real. One minute he was about to be
beaten, and the next the very s^me men became friendly.
The change had come when he mentioned Jason D.
Franks. Why, Hollis didn't know.
Perhaps the fact that he had been hired through the
intervention of a prominent official of the company had
helped. That seemed logical up to a point. But why
had they tried to pin union agitation on him, and why
had they taken his association with Jerry as a crime?
And, finally, why did they think it was good for him to
live with Jerry now, when they had been ready to attack
him for it a little while ago?
In both cases, the men seemed to think that he was
something more than just a worker in the plant. The
first was bad; the second, good. But what were they?
One thing was clear. The union was poison around
the Vanguard plant. He had seen enough to convince
him of that. Had he been connected with the union,
his fate would not have been a pleasant one. But now
that they were convinced that he had no connections
with the union, just what did they think he was?
It was too much for HoUis. Maybe Jerry could ex-
plain it later. Meanwhile, Hollis decided, he had just
better watch what he said and did until he found out
what it was all about.
Whatever it was, he had certainly seen the ugly side
of it. Hollis didn't know much about labor relations.
He had no idea whatever of the problems involved.
To him, it had always been a matter of working for Pop
Farnham, and he considered that working in a factory
must be approximately the same thing, only on a larger
But something was amiss in this picture. Again Hol-
lis felt that he had been swept up and enveloped in
something that was much larger than himself. Dwarfed
by the giant buildings, and lost among thousands of
men, he had known the feeling of smallness and insig-
nificance that comes to a man. But now, in this whirl-
wind of mass production, he glimpsed the crimson
streaks of hate and struggle that were shot through the
whole scene. Hollis saw a company guard standing in
front of a building. He felt the hair on the back of his
neck tingle. For the first time in his Hfe, Hollis looked
at another human being with suspicion. At that mo-
ment he felt the first hardening of his shell. Hollis
was becoming part of Motor City.
As Hollis approached, the guard looked him over
carefully, idly twirling his club. Since the earlier dis-
turbance at the gate, there was a general increase of
alertness on the part of the guards and the special
Hollis, already more informed, held out his card as
he approached the guard. " I'm looking for motor as-
sembly," said Hollis. " Can you tell me where it is? "
The guard looked at the card, then at HolHs.
" Why aren't you in working? " he asked. '* You're
" I was with a small man with glasses called
* Chief,' " said Hollis. " I was supposed to work on
headlights, but he changed my assignment."
The guard nodded. "We gotta be careful," he
said. '' If we let every Tom, Dick, and Harry roam
around here them union guys would be in stirrin' up
trouble all the time."
He pointed with his club. *' Go in over there. Jim
Stoner's the straw boss. He'll take care of you."
" Thanks," said Hollis.
" Don't mention It," said the guard.
Hollls went over to the building. It was a fairly low
structure, built of red brick, with the walls lined sol-
idly with windows. It was In the shape of a rectangle
and was spread out over a great amount of territory.
All In all. It reminded Hollls of a tremendous air-
plane hangar. Although he was outside, and the air
was filled with the roar and clatter of machines work-
ing outside, he could still catch some of the din that
came out of this building. He hesitated outside for a
moment, then went In.
Despite all that he had seen before, Hollls was not
prepared for the sight that now met his eyes. He
stopped, breathless. The sight of machines working
and men at the machines brought a rush of gladness
and confidence to his heart. Here, at last, was some-
thing he could understand.
But the magnitude of the place I
Almost as far as the eye could see, there were ma-
chines in a seemingly tangled mass. The noise of a
hundred different tools hammered and rattled, resound-
ing against the walls and roof, echo meeting echo,
mingling with more sound to create a formless, never-
As Hollls watched, his trained eyes caught the order
in the apparent confusion. He saw the assembly lines
roll steadily, and the men at them working swiftly and
evenly without pause. He looked up and saw the pow-
erful lights hung on girders that cast floods of illumina-
tion on the men and machines below.
He saw work.
it ^^2 ^
Wheels turning, hammers beating, machines grind-
ing, whirring, buzzing, whining. Everything was in
motion. He saw engines and parts of engines moving
along on different conveyer belts, moving from one
group of fast-working men to another.
Hollls was at once thrilled and appalled by what he
saw. At that moment, for no apparent reason, he
thought of Pop and the garage. He thought of the
silent town, sleeping In the sun, and the sound of his
hammer breaking the silence.
His hammer would be neither heard not missed here.
At once Hollls saw the meaning of mass production
and understood what a small part he would play in it
as he watched a thousand men at a thousand machines,
each bending to his tiny task.
Looking at them, it was almost hard to tell which
were the men and which were the machines. Both
moved with the same steady rhythm, repeating the
same simple operation over and over again, never vary-
ing, never changing.
Hollls stared. He felt an impulse to turn and run.
But he was like a man who stands on the deck of a ship
and gazes down Into a maelstrom that both horrifies
and attracts him. His fascination drew him closer to
the machines, and the door behind him closed. Hollis
Jim Stoner saw the new man and went over to show
him to his place. He had already been advised by tele-
phone that Hollls was coming. Stoner was a tall, lean
man with gray hair, and a leathery face that sagged in
at the cheeks.
Hollls nodded, giving Stoner the card.
*' Tm Stoner. Your boss here.*' He gave Hollls a
cold look. '* Think you can handle a speed wrench? *'
" I can try," said Hollis.
Stoner led Hollis into the heart of the giant maze.
Hollis was all eyes as he passed machines, workbenches,
and assembly lines. But the men at work didn't look
up to watch him pass. Lack of interest was one factor,
but greater than that was the need for them to keep
eyes and muscles alert and on the job. The conveyer
belt didn't stop to gawk at Hollis. It carried work. It
didn't give the men the chance to stop even if they had
Stoner turned in at the end of a long line. Hollis
saw the speed wrenches at work. Power lines hung
down from the ceiling, and attached to the free end of
each line was the wrench.
The men who handled the wrenches stood before a
belt that came past them just under waist-high. Every
few feet a drive shaft rolled past, the big differential
toward the workers. As one came abreast, a man
would push his wrench forward, covering a started nut.
He pulled the trigger. A brief " zzzzzt," and the nut
was on. Then his wrench was moved back slightly and
pushed over another nut, and that one was tightened.
In the brief time it took for the drive shaft to move
past a man, he had to tighten six nuts. Two men were
working electric wrenches. Two other men started
The work of the starter was one that called for great
digital dexterity. As the drive shafts came by, he had
to scoop down into a box of nuts that was before him,
and, working quickly and flawlessly, he had to start six
nuts by placing each one on the proper bolt and giving
it a quick turn.
As Hollis came up with Stoner, the men glanced at
him quickly, stealing precious moments from the task
at hand. Hollis saw their faces — lips pressed tightly
together in nervous tension, set expressions that were
traced by deep lines.
Stoner paused behind the man who was running
the first wrench. *' You'll start here," said Stoner.
" Watch Bill for a while. When you think you can
handle it, tap him on the shoulder and be ready to start
on the next piece of work."
That was all Stoner said. He wheeled and walked
away, leaving Hollis with the men.
Hollis stood slightly to one side, where he could
watch Bill work. The man was like a machine. His
movements hardly varied a fraction of an inch from
one piece of work to the other. Each time he started
on the same nut and ended on the same one. He had
his little orbit of work, and he followed it.
Hollis was astounded at the speed in which the oper-
ations were carried on. There seemed to be just enough
time between one differential and another for Bill to
finish the first and start the second.
Hollis stood close and watched.
Bill spoke out of the corner of his mouth while he
worked, giving Hollis advice.
" Get the rhythm," he advised Hollis without look-
ing at him. " Time the line. You got just so much
time to give each nut, see. You gotta divide your
time right. Watch me. No wasted motions, see?
Gotta take it easy, get in the swing of things. Wanna
Hollis licked his dry lips. " Yeah, Til try."
** All right. Stand close to me on the left. Get ready
to take over when I finish the next one. Nothing to it.
Just set your wrench and pull the trigger."
Hollis went around back of Bill and prepared to
take over. As soon as Bill finished he stepped back and
handed the wrench to Hollis. Hollis took the handle,
still warm from Bill's grasp. Already the next differ-
ential was on hand.
Hollis thrust the wrench forward quickly, trying to
slip it over the nut. In his eagerness, he pressed the
trigger before it was secure. The wrench skidded,
bucked, and almost kicked out of his hand. Acting au-
tomatically, Hollis let up and tried again.
By now the part had moved along the line a little.
Hollis shot an anxious glance at the man next to him.
If he didn't hurry, he would be forced to move over too
far, bumping into the next man.
Hollis managed to get the wrench set the second
time. Again he pressed the trigger. His tool whirred
with power, but he kept the power on too long. He had
a little difficulty pulling the wrench back and starting
for the next nut.
By the time Hollis had the second nut turned, he was
soaked with nervous perspiration and trembling. He
saw that he would never finish the other four nuts in
time, and the next drive shaft was almost ready to be
The man next to him spoke briefly. " Let it through,
ril handle it."
Hollis let the work go, and started on the next part.
The second speed-wrench man clamped his own work
down and managed to do Hollis' also.
Hollis did better on the second piece. He got three
down before he found himself worked down into the
next man's place and had to give up.
On the third one he was so nervous that he wasn't
able to get even one. His hands shook too much for
him to control them. " Bill, take over," gasped Hollis.
He felt Bill take the wrench out of his hands and
heard the steady *' zzzzzt, zzzzzzzt," as Bill brought
order and efficiency to the job.
Hollis breathed with difficulty. He was trembling all
over, and his heart pounded against his ribs. In the
noise and confusion and excitement, his head ached as
though it were going to split wide open. Hollis felt
sick. He needed air.
" You're taking it too hard, kid." Bill was speaking
to him. " You're a bundle of nerves. Relax. You're
all tightened up. You can't work when you're like
that. It's like with a machine. Machine's gotta be
oiled so it runs smooth. Same with a man. Gotta have
oil for blood. See, take it easy like this. You don't
have to jerk the wrench back so far. That's a waste
motion. Takes time you can't lose. Remember what
I said about timing. Figure out your time. Swing into
the same speed as the machine. Watch me."
Hollis watched again, but he was sick at heart as well
as feeh'ng physically sick. The self-confidence he had
always felt when it came to working with machines had
been carried away by his first contact with the assem-
bly line. He was scared of the line, and of the work.
Bill was calling him again. " Come on, kid. Don't
take it too hard this time. Just take it easy. You got
all the time in the world if you do it right."
Hollis took over again. The feel of the wrench in
his hands was reassuring. He knew tools, and he knew
how to use them. After all, he tried to argue with him-
self, if other men could handle the job, so could he.
Everyone had to start sometime in his life.
That helped. Hollis, learning by what he had seen,
was able to do four nuts the first time, raised that to
five, and soon was getting all six done.
Bill stood behind him, cheering. " Nice going," he
said. " Before long you'll want to do all twelve." He
laughed at his own weak joke. " Just relax a little
more. Don't tense up so much."
But in spite of Bill's encouraging advice, there was a
limit to what cheerfulness and assistance could do.
There was no way to relax. The moment Hollis had
spun the last nut into place, the next piece of work was
in place, mutely demanding attention.
Back and forth he went. Two steps to the right to
meet the oncoming drive shaft. Then, six times in
with his speed wrench, stepping twice to the left to
keep up with the rate of the conveyer belt. Then two
steps to the right to meet the next part, an identical
twin of the one just past. Two steps to the left while
the wrench sang out six times, and two quick steps to
the right to start all over again.
Hollis did a dozen or two — he lost count — when
Bill stepped in again. " I'll relieve you for a little
while," he said. ** You're coming along fine. When
you're ready to take over next time, I'll let you have it
for good. If you feel that you need relief, just holler
for me, and I'll spell you."
Hollis took a good rest. He tried to get his nervous
muscles to relax a little, but they were slow in loosening.
His stomach felt as though it was tied in a small hard
knot inside him.
Bill looked around expectantly once or twice, and
then Hollis was ready to take over. He stepped in po-
sition to take the wrench. " Easy does it," Bill advised
again. " Don't let the line get you down. It'll try to
hurry you, rattle you, and throw you off. But don't let
it get your goat. Good luck."
Hollis took the wrench again. He met the work
with more confidence this time. At first it was a little
hard, but he found himself timing the belt. Also, as
he worked, he became more proficient in handling the
With his natural feeling for tools, he soon was able
to gauge how far back he had to pull his wrench, how
best to zip effortlessly down the line of nuts, and how
to time his every move so that his work consisted of
flowing, easy motions, instead of abrupt jumps.
At the end of an hour, Hollis was doing the job as
though he had been working at it for years. It was
^ 79 ^
He was waiting with poised wrench when the differ-
ential came along. Then, moving slowly with the speed
of the belt, his wrench was moved Into place. Easily,
effortlessly, he spun the six nuts, and then he was mov-
ing back to get the next part.
It was really simple. He was soon able to time al-
most exactly how long It would take to screw each nut
on, and he was ready to turn off the power at the right
moment, saving precious time.
Back and forth he went again, but now he was the
master of his job.
But a job that a man can master in a short time Is apt
to grow tiresome quickly. By the end of the first hour,
Hollis began to get bored. After all, in the last analy-
sis. It wasn't much of a job. You work a wrench and
screw on a certain number of nuts in a given time.
That's all right, up to a point. The work has to be
done. It's Important. But It can get tiresome.
Hollis thought again of his work in the garage back
in Holden. Pop would think it was funny work for a
man to be doing — just spending all his time tighten-
ing six particular nuts on differentials.
You didn't get bored in Holden, Hollis was think-
ing. One day you worked on a motor, the next on the
body. One car needed the carburetor fixed, the next
had ignition trouble.
That was a job for a man. The whole car was your
field. You had a chance to use some of the brains that
God gave you to figure out the problems that came up.
And when you had solved the problem, and you heard
the car running smoothly again, it was a sound to glad-
den your heart.
You could look at the cars on the street and feel that
you were important to them, and to the people that
drove them. That Buick, that Ford, that Dodge —
they had all been in your care. You knew the peculiari-
ties of each one. You knew cars almost as people.
They were more than machines: each one had a dis-
tinct personality. You could watch them going up and
down the streets and feel good because you had done
something important to keep them running.
But this job I
Hollis stepped to the right, meeting the next differ-
ential. This was no job for a mechanic. A machine
could do the work faster and better if the company went
to the trouble of putting one in.
Differentials going by — hundreds of them. What
happened to them next was none of his concern. He
didn't see them as automobiles, but merely as chunks
of metal that demanded a brief amount of his attention.
. . . Step, press, release, press, release, step, press,
release, press, release, step, press, release, press, re^
lease, step, step, press . . .
When you're a mechanic in a small garage, you get
to love your work. You dream. You think of the fu-
ture. Each new job teaches you something about the
way cars are made and how they run. You even get a
few theories of your own on how they should be built,
theories that might someday be translated into better
cars, safer cars.
When you're a mechanic in a small garage you love
your work. You're sort of like a doctor. You know
your auto patients and the history of their ills. You
almost know what to look for and expect.
People respect your trade when you're a good me-
chanic in a small town. Sometimes they travel quite a
ways to take their troubles to you. It's a sign of con-
fidence. Person-to-person confidence. They come to
you as an individual, respecting your ability. It makes
you feel warm and good inside when that happens.
You're a man. You have your place in the society of
your fellow men.
Yes, you dream when you're a mechanic in Pop
Farnham's garage. You lie awake at night and figure
out how to fix that cranky truck. You look over litera-
ture, and read about technical schools. You read books
about your job, trying to improve your knowledge so
that someday you can benefit more and more people by
what you know.
What is there to study about using a speed wrench ?
Who knows or cares about the man with the speed
wrench, whose contribution to a car is six nuts on the
What kind of future can a man look forward to — a
man whose day consists of two steps to the right, six
jabs with a wrench while he steps to the left, and two
steps to the right again?
What kind of life is this for a man? What can he
look forward to ?
Hollis was young. He had forty or fifty years of
work left in him. He realized that. But forty or fifty
years of what? Of standing In that same spot, tighten-
ing nuts on differentials ? Doing the same monotonous
little job over and over again forever?
"Zzzzzzzzt . . . zzzzzzzzzt . . . zzzzzzzzt.'*
HoUis was weary. His arms ached from the steady,
unaccustomed grind. His back ached. His head
ached. He had been working — how long?
Hollis staggered a little. The man next to him
looked over sympathetically. "Another hour and a
half until lunch," he said to Hollis. " It will go fast."
Hollis swung his wrench. Another hour and a half.
And then, the afternoon. Then the same thing in the
morning, and the next afternoon.
As long as the plant was open, he would not have to
worry or wonder about what his job would be for the
coming day. He would always know. Six nuts on a
differential and a speed wrench.
Hollis was tired. Very tired. The sweat ran down
into his eyes, blinding him. His work was getting
sloppy. He shook back his hair and rammed the
wrench home again. He was falling behind. Suddenly
he lost the smoothness of motion that he had found.
Suddenly he was all tight again, trembling. The knot
in the pit of his stomach was doubling him over. He
was missing too many nuts as the work went by.
Hollis raised his eyes for a precious second. He
opened his mouth. His voice sounded strange and far
away as he tried to call out over the din of the machines.
BILL CAME UP ON THE RUN, TAKING THE SPEED
wrench away from Hollis. " Go into the washroom
and duck your head In cold water/' he ordered.
Hollis nodded and walked away, his head hanging.
He found the washroom and went in. Running a
basin full of cold water, he plunged his head into it. It
was cool and refreshing. The shock helped to bring
him around to normal.
He rubbed his face and head vigorously with paper
towels, slapping himself into a calmer state. He was
getting more quiet, and the trembling wasn't so bad.
Two other men in the washroom watched him.
"First day, kid?"
" Speed wrench," he answered, still feeling his weak-
Hollis nodded again.
The man shrugged. " Don't let it get you down."
He turned to his companion. " See you tonight." He
stopped to look at himself in a mirror, frowned, and
went out. The other man followed.
Hollis felt rested enough to go back to the wrench.
As he started out, he caught a glimpse of his own reflec-
tion in the mirror. It startled him.
On past occasions when HoUis had seen himself in a
mirror, he had looked at a rather ordinary face, a Httle
too rugged to be good-looking, but calm enough, with
friendly little lines around the mouth and eyes that
were always ready to deepen into a grin.
Now HoUis saw a new not very pleasant person.
His face was pale, almost haggard. The whites of his
eyes were crisscrossed with red lines. He seemed thin-
ner. He was showing the effects of the morning.
Hollis went out and back to Bill. By now the
*' zzzzt " of the speed wrench was a familiar sound.
He had already begun to ignore the continuous din of
other machines. He stepped up to Bill and got ready
to take over.
Bill looked at him closely. " Think youVe ready? "
" I'll take it," said HoUis.
" O.K. But don't wait so long to call me if you feel
it getting you."
** I'll call you," Hollis promised. He took over the
wrench. It was easy to slide back into the rhythm of
the work again. His nervousness was all gone. He
concentrated on doing his job well, finding little short
cuts and time savers. The wrench was light in his
hands, and he forgot to think about himself. He was
glad when the noon whistle blew, and, when the power
was turned off, he felt a wave of tiredness come over
him. His arms felt heavy, and his shoulders ached.
The noon whistle was the signal for a concerted rush
on the part of the men for one side of the shop. There
HoHis saw a small line of food trucks. The men jostled
each other as they got into line and began moving
HoUis went over slowly, getting at the very end of
the line. He wasn't exactly hungry, but there didn't
seem to be anything else to do.
The line moved very slowly, in spite of the hurry the
men were in. Hollis followed it forward. He was sur-
prised at the silence that prevailed. There was a com-
plete absence of joking and very little conversation.
Most of the men waited for their turn at the food
in utter, detached silence, looking ahead or down with
vacant eyes. A few carried on short conversations,
but the spark of life was missing from their words.
Hollis was surprised that there was no horseplay.
He knew that in most places where men work together,
even at a harvest, lunch hour would be the time for ex-
cess spirits to have their moment. In a way it was
part of the work. It was as regular as sweat.
Hollis missed it here. The men were silent, even
gloomy. Those who were first in line, and got their
food first, scattered to find secluded places to sit and
eat, wolfing their food with machinelike quickness and
The men directly in front of Hollis began to get
restive. They leaned from one side to the other, try-
ing to see what was going on at the front of the line.
They were anxious and irritated.
" Hurry it up down there," someone on the rear
shouted. " We haven't got all day."
There was an echoing chorus to his words, disjointed,
plaintive : " Hurry it up 1 " '* Whassa matter with you
guys?" " What are they doing? Handing it out with
The rumbling sounds of discontent came out like the
sporadic fire of rifles. From the front of the line there
were shouts of advice to those on the rear — and not
all of it was comphmentary. " You won't starve."
''Take it easy — "
The man in front of Hollis snorted in disgust.
" This is the only line in the plant that doesn't ever
speed up," he growled.
His remark was answered by a few bitterly appreci-
The man turned around to look at Hollis. " If they
don't get a move on we won't eat," he said. " What
are you doing back here anyway? I've got an excuse.
Got a bad leg and can't run. You should be able to get
" This is my first day," explained Hollis. Now that
he had a chance, he asked a question that had been
bothering him for a little while. " Does the company
furnish the food, or do we pay for it? "
" You pay for it," the man answered, smothering a
cynical grin. "This ain't the Salvation Army, bud.
The company don't give nothing away."
" Hollls I " Someone was calling him from near the
wall. " Hey, HoUis, come over here."
Hollis looked over and saw Jerry propped against
the wall, eating.
" Come on over," Jerry shouted. " You'll never get
through in time to get anything to eat."
Hollis left. He wasn't really hungry, and he would
rather talk to Jerry than eat at this moment.
He went over, and Jerry found a place for them to
sit. He offered Hollis half a sandwich. " Take some
of mine," he said. " I've already had enough."
HoUis shook his head tiredly. *' Thanks, Jerry, I'm
He noticed that Jerry was looking at him closely.
Hollis looked down at himself to see if anything was
wrong. Then he looked back at Jerry's anxious face.
Jerry looked around cautiously. " I was just sur-
prised," he said in a low tone. " I wasn't expecting to
see you here — or looking like this."
*' In one piece, more or less," said Jerry. ** I was
afraid for what the VSP might do."
" Vanguard Special Police."
A whistle blew. Jerry sighed. " Five more min-
utes, then work." He started to leave. " I'll meet you
outside after work."
*' O.K.," said Hollis. He made no move to get up.
" You'd better get back to your place," said Jerry,
" wherever it is."
** Speed wrench,'* said Hollls. '' But you just said I
had five minutes."
Jerry grinned, but not with mirth. " It doesn't work
like that," he explained. *' When this whistle blows
we're supposed to go back to our machines. When the
next one blows the power is turned on Immediately,
and every man has to be at work."
Hollls climbed to his feet. " Seemed like a mighty
short hour," he complained.
" That's because we only get a half-hour for lunch,"
said Jerry. " Actually, It's twenty-five minutes."
** See you after work," said HoUis. He went back
to the speed wrench. Men were already standing at
their places, waiting for the power to be turned on.
Hollls noticed that they were fidgety, nervously assort-
ing and straightening things, and seemingly anxiously
waiting for the power to be turned on and for the ma-
chines to start rolling.
Hollls took his own place. The other speed-wrench
operator was already waiting, his wrench ready. For
the first time, Hollls saw that his co-worker was a Ne-
gro. He was startled by that fact and by the fact that
he had not noticed it earlier.
The Negro was much larger than Hollls, although
Hollls was no small man. His powerful muscles rip-
pled under a smooth black skin when he moved. His
head too was huge and powerful, but his expression
He smiled at Hollis. ** How you feelin', boy? " he
asked in a husky, musical tone.
" Better," said HolHs. " Getting hot, isn't it? "
" Gets hot enough to boil beans in the afternoon,"
said the Negro. ** Ain't so bad if you keep up on salt."
" Keep up on salt? " asked Hollis.
** Oh, yes," said the Negro. " Plenty of salt cap-
sules is the thing. They got them in a little machine
over by the drinking fountain. Look like aspirin tab-
lets. They put back the salt in your body that you sweat
out, and that keeps you from getting weak."
"I didn't know that," said Hollis. "Just plain
" That's all. I like 'em. Suck on 'em like they were
candy." The Negro chuckled. " Sure is funny, ain't
"Yeah," Hollis allowed himself a tired smile.
" Who'd ever think that about salt? "
Their conversation was interrupted by a powerful
hum as the electric current was turned on. In a second
the machines began to roll, and work was on for the aft-
ernoon. The first differential came up to Hollis. Au-
tomatically — so much so that he surprised himself —
he tightened the six nuts quickly, before he had time to
think about it. And then the next one was ready.
The big Negro spoke to him. " What's your name,
" Hollis MacEachron."
" Scottish," answered Hollis. Then he laughed at
what he had said. It had just popped out. He wasn't
as touchy as some people about the use of the proper
word, but so many people had asked him which was cor-
rect that he corrected " Scotch " automatically.
" rm Freddy Brown,'* the Negro volunteered.
*' Pleased to meet you," said Hollis.
They fell silent, their conversation interrupting the
smooth flow of their work. It was necessary to think
in proper rhythm, or else it threw you off.
Hollis cast a few sidelong glances at Freddy. It was
a little strange to be working with a Negro. Hollis
had seen Negroes before, but not many. Those he
had seen were not like Freddy. They had lived in the
poorest hovels in town and had charge of the lowest
To Hollis, the Negro was a shuffling, unintelligent,
inferior person. Hardly a person, in fact. Just as he
had accepted other small-town viewpoints, Hollis had
accepted the prejudiced attitude toward Negroes. It
was something of a shock to meet one who was not
only in possession of a job that was the equal of that
held by white men, but one who was more efficient in
the performance of that job.
Basically, however, Hollis was not a bigot. He ac-
cepted his discovery about the different position of Ne-
groes much as he had accepted the other strange things
he had come across. It was all a part of Motor City.
The afternoon wore on. Hollis worked methodi-
cally at his job, doing it well, although he was tired.
Once, in the middle of the afternoon he called for Bill
to relieve him and went to take several salt capsules
with water. He didn't notice any change in his feel-
ing, but he decided that if they were there, they were
there for a good purpose, so he didn't debate the matter
^ 92 ^
It helped Hollls to see that other men left the line
from time to time for a pause. Bill's job, it seemed,
was to relieve any man who wanted to pull out of the
line for a few minutes. Bill seemed skilled at several
tasks and was almost always busy at one job or an-
Hour after hour, with only a few brief intermissions,
Hollis worked at his speed wrench. It seemed that the
day would never end.
But it did end. The power was turned off, and ev-
erything came to a stop. Once the switch was thrown
it acted on men and machines alike, and it was almost
as though the men were driven by electric power.
For a moment after the work stopped, Hollis stood
with the wrench in his hands, not knowing what to do.
One moment he was working at a regular pace, and the
next the work was over. He was actually lost and
wished for the machine to start again.
His hands still tingled from the vibration of the
wrench. More than his hands. His entire body was
shaken. Although the machines were still, Hollis'
body was still going. It felt charged with electricity,
and as he walked away from the assembly line he felt
light on his feet and as though tiny bells were ringing
in his blood.
Hollis went out into the bright, hot sun. Even as
he joined the thousands who were leaving, he saw men
coming to the plant. There was only a little time lost,
and then the night shift took over.
The men rested all night, but the machines were only
still for a little while. New masters — or servants —
took over for eight hours, and In the morning the old
shift would be back. Three shifts a day, eight hours
each. The giant plant never stopped.
Hollls walked through the gate. A hundred yards
or so farther on he saw Jerry waiting for him. Hollls
increased his pace until he had joined his friend.
" How do you like your first day? " Jerry asked as
they fell into step.
*' Seems like I've been in there a year,'' said Hollls.
" How'd you get on the speed wrench? I thought
you would be on headlights."
" So did I, but I guess what I think doesn't cut any
ice around here. They decided to put me on the wrench,
and there I am."
Hollls looked over to where the three union men had
been beaten in the morning. It seemed far away. Sud-
denly he realized that he had not even thought of It all
day. He saw a heavy guard of company police posted
around the gates. All the scattered leaflets had long
since been gathered up and destroyed.
*' Wonder what happened to those three fellows? "
" Jail," said Jerry. " Probably get sentenced for
trespassing on private property and disturbing the
peace. Maybe even for inciting to riot, if the com-
pany thinks it can get away with it."
" It wasn't a pretty thing to see," said Hollls. " It
hurts to see men beaten like that."
"What about you?" Jerry asked. "When I saw
you I was certain I'd never see you in Motor City
again. The least I expected was to see you beaten up.
What happened? "
Hollis was about to tell Jerry the entire story, but
he held back. There were many things he didn't un-
derstand about Motor City and the Vanguard plant.
The first thing he didn't quite understand was why the
company was treating suspected union men the way it
did. Secondly, he was puzzled by the change in attitude
when he told the Chief he had been hired by Jason D.
Franks, General Manager.
There was something strange afoot — something
Hollis was determined to track down. Until he did,
he was going to keep his eyes open and his mouth shut.
The company men had made several references to Jerry
as an " agitator " and seemed to feel he was a particu-
lar enemy. Although HolHs felt a strong liking for
Jerry, he decided to withhold some of the things that
had happened until he could see them all in their cor-
** Nothing much happened," Hollis said. *' They
were going to give me a thrashing for being fresh, but
I guess I convinced them that I was more Ignorant
than I was dangerous. So they let me go."
" Country luck," said Jerry. " Hollis, you look so
honest even the VSP couldn't doubt your word. And
that is an achievement. How'd you get speed wrench ? "
" Told them I was a mechanic," said Hollis, " and
they changed me. Said they could use me there better
than on headlights."
*' I suppose you found out I was poison," said Jerry
** They didn't cheer your name,'* grinned Hollis.
** Kept calling you an agitator."
" Everybody's an agitator to them," said Jerry.
** The Fascists I "
" The Fascists and the Agitators," said Hollis.
" Sounds like two fancy names for sand-lot baseball
" Only we're playing for keeps," said Jerry.
*' Mrs. Billings said that you might not mind having
me for a roommate," said Hollis. " It's all right with
me if you still feel that way."
" I'll help you move in," said Jerry. " We're going
to have a lot to talk about." He smiled at Hollis. " If
the VSP can believe you, I guess I can too. Maybe I'm
sticking my neck out, but I'll take the chance."
"What chance?" asked Hollis. "I'm honest. I
won't read your mail and I promise not to wear your
good shirts without asking you first."
" That's not what I mean," said Jerry.
They turned in at the house. " We'll talk that over
tonight. Right now I could go for something to eat."
Hollis discovered that he too was hungry. The knot
in his stomach was beginning to untie a little, and he
was shaking off the effects of his day at the line.
Mrs. Billings met them as they entered the house.
" Hello, Jerry. How did things go, Hollis? "
" I lasted out the day," said Hollis.
" He did all right," said Jerry. " They put him on
a tough job and he made a go of it. Anybody else
" Gabby," said Mrs. Billings. " He's inside reading
the paper, and it's not doing him any good. What hap-
pened at the gate this morning? "
** What we expected/' said Jerry, bitterness coming
into his voice again.
Mrs. Billings looked at HoUis, then back at Jerry.
*' It's all right," said Jerry. " You don't have to
worry about Hollis. He was ready to take on the VSP
single-handed. It was all I could do to hold him back."
It was Jerry's turn to ask a question. *' You've seen
the paper, haven't you? How are the boys? "
" Pretty bad, I gather," said Mrs. Billings soberly.
" But you know what we can expect from the Motor
City Press J' She spoke to Hollis. " That's the only
paper in the city, and it's owned by Vanguard."
" What'd they say? " asked Jerry.
Gabby, who had heard their voices, came stomping
in with the paper clutched in his hands. " What do
you think they said?" he demanded angrily, shaking
the paper. " According to the paper, you'd think they
were trying to blow up the plant. Listen."
Gabby smoothed the paper and read aloud : " * A few
moments after the union agitators appeared, the loyal
workers of the plant made short work of them. The
union men, whom the Vanguard management has
pointed out as being outside agitators in no way con-
nected with the plant, appeared just as the morning
shift was going to work. They attempted to hand out
leaflets and incite the workers against the company.
Hardly had they started their incitement, when a num-
ber of loyal workers, angered by this outside interfer-
ence, rushed the organizers, taking away their leaflets.
Only the timely Intervention of the Vanguard Special
Police prevented the outraged workers from inflicting
severe bodily injury on the agitators.' "
" The liars I " Jerry burst out. " Loyal workers I
The VSP, they mean."
Gabby threw down the paper. " It goes on like that
for half a page," he said. '' All about outside agita-
tors who are trying to interfere with the company and
make the workers pay tribute for holding jobs. And
the big editorial is the same way. A lot of big words
about the sacred right of a man to run his business the
way he sees fit, without any outside interference."
" You just wait," said Jerry grimly. " When we get
strong enough we'll have a labor paper around here
that will show these lies for what they are. What does
it say about the fellows? "
" They're throwing the book at them," said Gabby.
** Everything from criminal syndicalism to trespassing.
They'll get twenty years if the syndicalism charge is
"What's criminal syndicalism?" asked Hollls,
speaking for the first time. " It sounds pretty vicious."
" Treason, more or less," said Jerry. " According
to the law. It Includes everything from inciting disloy-
alty to the Government to wearing a red tie. It's one
of those vague laws that can mean all things. Right
now it means prison to those of us who are too active In
the labor movement to suit Big Business."
The happening of the morning took on new signifi-
cance to Hollls. He remembered how awful had been
that look on Jerry's face when he had held him back
from helping the attacked union men. " Did you know
those three men? " he asked Jerry.
Jerry nodded. " They're friends of mine, Hollis.
Good friends." Jerry seemed older as he talked. " It
wasn't easy to stand back and watch," he said. " I
wanted to rush in and help as much as you did, but so
did the company."
"The company?'* Hollis found that hard to be-
" Sure," said Jerry. " What they wanted was for us
to help out our boys. Then there would have been a
regular free-for-all. A real riot to blame on the union.
Besides that, it would have given them the chance to
spot union men who are working in the plant."
As Jerry talked, Hollis got a new view of his friend.
He saw a backbone of steel.
" I was afraid that would happen If I let you go,"
said Jerry. " Others would have followed you. But
that's the wrong thing to do, no matter how you feel.
If the union Is going to succeed, we have to have disci-
pline, no matter what the situation is.'*
" Did those three fellows know they wouldn't get
any help?" Hollis asked.
Jerry nodded. ** They were the ones who insisted
that we keep hands off."
" They're pretty brave," said Hollis.
" They're the leaders of the union," said Jerry.
" The leaders ? " Hollis couldn't quite believe what
he heard. " You mean the leaders actually do that? "
" Part of their work," said Gabby.
Hollis shook his head. " That sure doesn't jibe with
a lot of things IVe heard about unions," he said.
" I don't imagine it does," said Jerry, showing a flash
of grim humor. " It isn't true of all unions, but it is of
" You have to respect men like that," said Hollis.
" Respect isn't enough," said Jerry harshly. He
grasped Hollis by the shoulder. *' I meant to wait
awhile before asking you this, but I'm asking you now.
Will you join the GEIU?"
" The — what? " Hollis asked.
" The Gas Engine International Union," said Jerry.
" I'm showing you my hand, Hollis. You know what
it would mean if the company finds out. I'm taking my
chances with you. Are you with us? Will you join
Jerry, Mrs. Billings, and Gabby all looked at Hollis
expectantly. Mrs. Billings wiped her hands mechani-
cally on her apron. Gabby was tearing little pieces off
the newspaper, wadding them between his fingers and
flicking them away. Jerry looked Hollis in the face
and waited for his answer.
Hollis took a deep breath.
^' No, Jerry," he said, handing back an application
card that Jerry had given him. '* I'm not joining."
A STUNNED SILENCE WAS THE FIRST REACTION TO
what Hollis said. Jerry reached out mechanically and
took the application card.
" Tm sorry,'* said Hollis.
His words broke the spell. Gabby, who had been
waiting tensely for his answer, seemed to crack. The
strain of the day's events was suddenly brought to a
head. His face showed the rushing emotions of dis-
appointment, doubt, and, finally, suspicion. These and
fear exploded him into an impassioned outburst.
" Sorry! " he choked. He swung on Jerry. " I told
you not to," he shouted, his voice breaking. *' Now
look what you've done. We're exposed — all of us.'*
Gabby turned back to Hollis. His fear led him to
make wild, useless threats. He spoke without think-
ing. " If the VSP beats me up I'll know where they
got their information. It'll be your fault. We'll know
who the spy was, and we'll get you — "
*' Gabby!" Jerry grabbed Gabby by the shoulder
and pushed him back against the wall. " Shut up,"
Jerry said fiercely. "Do you hear? Shut up!"
Gabby stopped talking. He leaned against the wall,
breathing heavily, watching Hollis.
Jerry spoke to Hollis. His voice was even, but there
was no softness in his tone. " Why won't you join,
Hollis was glad to have things back at a normal
state. " It wouldn't be fair to me or the union," he
said. " I don't know anything about unions. I've
heard quite a bit about them, but it's mostly been bad."
** Is that your only reason? "
" I'd say it was," said Hollis. " I'll join your union
when and if I'm convinced it's the thing for me to do,
but not before."
HoHis spoke to Gabby. *' I'm no spy," he said. *' I
don't like to be called names. One of the first things I
want to know is why you act like being a union member
is outside the law — if the union is such a good thing as
" Gabby didn't mean anything," said Jerry. ** It's
been a tough day for us, Hollis."
Hollis thought back to the plant. He could see how
it might make a man high-strung after he'd been work-
ing on the assembly line for a couple of years. And after
what had happened at the gate — well, he could see
"Jerry's right," said Gabby, his twitching fingers
the only outward sign of his feelings. " If you had been
what I said, you would have jumped at the chance to
join. The trouble with me is that I didn't recognize an
honest man when I saw one. No hard feelings? " He
put out his hand.
" None at all/' smiled Hollis.
" Well/' Mrs. Billings sighed with relief. " That's
over. Run along into the front room, all of you, while
I get supper."
They went out at her request, picking the three most
comfortable places in the front room to relax. Once
he was off his feet, Hollis felt a wave of weariness
sweep over him. Given a chance to get attention, every
muscle began aching and crying for sympathy.
Jerry also sprawled in a chair, giving his body a
chance to forget the incessant routine of the working
day. Gabby couldn't sit still. He sat down for a mo-
ment, but then he was up, chasing flies with a folded
newspaper, stalking them ceaselessly and with stern
Gabby chased a fly into the other room. Hollis
watched him. ** Does it every day," said Jerry in a low
tone. '^ So do the others. So do I, sometimes. You'll
be doing it too."
Hollis smiled. Jerry mistook the nature of it.
** You will be," he said. " Everybody is like that after
work. For half an hour or so you feel as though you'll
never be able to relax. You're so tired you're ready to
drop, but somehow you can't sit still."
** Like deep-sea divers," said Hollis. " I read once
how they have to pull the divers up slowly so they can
get accustomed to the change in pressure."
" Something like that," said Jerry. " Our work
stops so suddenly that we seem to need a little while to
adjust ourselves. We usually don't talk very much be-
fore supper. We're all on edge and irritable."
ir 103 ir
" Thanks for the tip/* said Hollls.
One after another, Harry Weldon, John Machok
and Pete Strebo came in. They nodded briefly and
went by, going up the stairs to their rooms.
A few minutes later Pete came down and sat at the
table. He took a slice of bread, broke it into many
small pieces, and slowly buttered the fragments one at
a time, eating each one as it was buttered. He paid no
attention to the others, but kept intent on the job at
After supper, the men returned to the front room.
Jerry went up to his room and brought down several
pamphlets dealing with unionism that he gave to HoUis.
Harry's eyes widened a little as he saw this.
" I've asked Hollis to join," Jerry explained. '' He's
not ready yet."
Harry nodded approvingly. " Think it over, lad,"
he said. " You'll be a better member if you join."
Hollis sat down by a lamp and looked through the
pamphlets. The others conversed in low tones about
the events that had happened during the day.
Some time later Hollis was aware that the others
had stopped talking and were watching him. He put
away the pamphlets. " Well? " Jerry asked.
Hollis shrugged. *' I don't know. There are a lot
of questions that aren't answered here."
*' If the union is such a good thing, why is the com-
pany against it? "
*' Because," said Jerry, ** if we have a union, they
won't be able to hire and fire us as they please, and for
whatever reason they want to."
" Hasn't the company that right? "
" No it hasn't," said Gabby emphatically.
" Why not? " asked HolHs. " Shouldn't a man be
able to have some say about who works for him ? After
all, it's his business."
" In other words," said Harry, " you think Van-
guard has the right to offer a job and certain pay with
a take-it-or-leave-it attitude."
" Sure," said Hollis. " They're not making anybody
work there. If we don't like it, we can leave."
" Well — " Hollis didn't quite know how to answer
" Look, Hollis," said Jerry. " We're not trying to
dictate to Vanguard. All we're trying to do is get some
measure of protection for ourselves. Right now we
want union recognition. Do you know what that
Hollis shook his head.
" It means we want Vanguard to agree to meet
with our representatives to discuss questions concern-
ing the men who work in the plant. All we want now is
the opportunity to represent the men in bargaining with
the company about such things as wages, hours, and
'' I don't see why you need a union for that," said
Hollis. " When I worked for Pop Farnham we always
managed to get along."
'' You're not working for Pop now,*' said Jerry im-
patiently. " You're not the only mechanic in the ga-
rage. You're only one of a hundred thousand men.
Don't you see ? Every one of us has the same problem.
We can't go to the management one by one. They
wouldn't even talk to us that way."
" It comes down to this," said Harry. " Vanguard
can do without Jerry or you or me, or anybody in the
plant. They can get along without any one man that
works there. But they can't get along without all of us.
Sure they own the plant. But what good would all that
machinery be if they didn't have men to run the ma- '
chines and make the cars. They need workers, Hollis.
And because we are so necessary to them, we should
have a little say about wages and conditions."
Hollis had never thought about the matter in that
way before. He had always seen the fact that working
men needed employment, but he had never considered
that employers also needed workers. Actually, as he
saw It, the entire affair was really a partnership. The
owners provided the money and materials, and the
workers provided the necessary labor. Still, he wasn't
" Wages are pretty good here," he said. *' In a way
you fellows are one-sided about this. All you're inter-
ested in seems to be high wages. How does that affect
the farmer? He doesn't get any more for his crops,
and he has to pay higher prices for his manufactured
Harry smiled ruefully. ** You've heard all the ar-
guments, haven't you?" he said, "You've been here
one day. YouVe seen our work — youVe done it.
YouVe getting the so-called * high wages.' Do you
think you're going to get rich? "
" Not very," said Hollls. '' To tell the truth, I won't
be much ahead of what I was In Holden, where I made
a lot less."
" That's how It Is," said Jerry. " We make a little
more, but our expenses are higher. And we don't work
a full year. The auto worker's year Is usually between'
six and eight months. We have to save enough to live
on during that time. J^Igure out how much our yearly
income amounts to, and our wages won't seem so big."
" There are plenty of farmers who have three meals
a day every day In the year," said Harry. " That's
more than you can say for a lot of auto workers."
** What does your union want, then? " Hollls asked.
"An annual wage, for one big thing," Gabby said.
*'The way It has been, we've always worked like mad
for a few months out of the year, turning out most of
the cars that are to be made. Then, when that's over,
we're laid off until the next season, when the rush and
speed-up starts all over again. We want Vanguard to
figure out how many cars they're going to make In a
year and spread production over the entire period.
We'd rather get less and get It all year than make a lit-
tle more per hour, but less In the course of a year."
John Machok added: " It Isn't so bad for us single
fellows. When the layoffs come, we go to Florida, or
some other place where we can find odd jobs and sleep
outside If we have to. But it's tough on the boys who
have families to support."
^ 107 *
" What do they do ? " Hollls asked.
" Go on relief."
" If they can get it."
** What it amounts to," said Jerry, *' is that Van-
guard and the other companies work us as fast as we
can work, so we can get all the cars out quickly. Then
they tell us we are through, and it's none of their con-
cern what happens to us until they need us again. In
effect, they make the rest of the country support us un-
til there is work again."
" Even the slaves weren't so badly off," said Harry.
" At least under slavery the owner saw that the slaves
were fed and housed all year round, and he took some
responsibility about their care and health. We don't
even have that."
" And when you are a little too old," said John, " out
you go. No security, no job — no nothing. Nothing
to show for the years you work."
" Let me tell you," said Harry. " When the city
worker is making a decent wage, the farmer is better
off. We don't throw our money around foolishly.
Most of what we make goes for food. It won't do the
farmer much good to get cheap machinery if there isn't
anybody to buy his product."
Jerry pulled out his watch and looked at it. " It's
time to start," he said, " Want to go along, HoUis? "
" Union meeting."
Hollis nodded. His curiosity was aroused by what
he had heard. He saw good truth in the arguments
that had been given him. It wasn't too much for a man
to ask security. There wasn*t much else in life for a
man who spent his life working. It was no more than
fair, Hollis felt, that the men should have some pro-
Thinking back again to the plant, he could see how
little chance the individual had In dealing with a large
company. His experience with the VSP, for instance.
He had been completely at their mercy. There was no
chance for him to plead his case or explain. It was all
one-sided. All the power and right seemed to be on the
company side. Maybe the only way for the workers to
get a fair hearing was to band together and pool their
Hollis was not totally unfamiliar with the history of
the struggles between different economic groups. He
knew from his own Iowa history how the farmers had
banded togethei In the past to form the Grange, in or-
der to protect themselves from the exploitation of ruth-
less Eastern capitalists.
Justice; Hollis knew, often had to be fought for.
The history of the world was one of struggle for jus-
tice. This was a part of it. He also realized that he
was no longer Hollis MacEachron, a good mechanic
who was respected by the community. He was just
the man who ran the Number One speed wrench. If
he disappeared, there would be another to take his
place, and he wouldn't be missed. Production would
He knew, as he had known earlier in the day when
he was just one among a thousand, that as an individual
worker he had ceased to be important. He was im-
portant only as a cog In the wheel, only as one among
many. He, like the others, was important only as part
of the mass. He saw what Harry had meant when he
said, " They can do without any one of us, but they
can't do without all of us."
As HolHs walked with Jerry, he was eager to see the
union in action. He was attracted by the thought of
getting together with his fellows to improve their con-
ditions. In a way, every man was working for himself
and for all the others. It was real brotherhood.
The aims, as far as Hollis could see, were fine. La-
bor and capital ought to be in some kind of partnership.
The fighting and bitterness didn't have any place. Es-
pecially now, when the world was involved in a war to
preserve the democratic way of life. Maybe, Hollis
thought, he could help that democracy along if he got
in where things were happening. He nudged Jerry.
*' If you still have that blank," Hollis said, " I'll sign
it as soon as we get to a light."
A big grin spread over Jerry's features. " Good,
Hollis. I knew you'd join."
They walked through many quiet, deserted streets to
get to the union hall. It was not a pretty part of town.
Shabby houses gave way to mixed business and residen-
tial blocks, where small stores occupied the ground floor
and apartments were built above.
In the warm summer night, they found people sitting
on the outside steps, seeking a breath of cooling air.
The union hall was on one of these streets — in a va-
cant store with huge curtains over the windows. Jerry
waited a moment in the shadows, looking around to
make sure the coast was clear. Then he led HoUIs
The room was rough. There was no other furni-
ture besides the rows of folding chairs and a table at
the front where the chairman sat. On the walls were
various posters urging men to join the GEIU.
The room was half filled when Jerry arrived with
Hollis. Two men at the table were going over a sheaf
of papers. Others, in the folding chairs, sat and smoked
silently, or talked.
" Won't be many here tonight," said Jerry.
" Afraid, after what happened this morning."
Hollis' heart skipped a beat. " Think there'll be any
'' Probably not."
Jerry led Hollis up to the table. One of the men was
In working clothes. He was secretary of the local. The
other man was wearing a conventional business suit.
He was more polished. He greeted Hollis with a cer-
tain amount of professional glibness. " This is Joe
Latrim," said Jerry, " our organizer."
Hollis was more impressed with the secretary.
" Do you want to pay your initiation now, Brother
MacEachron? " the secretary asked.
*' One dollar. Dues are a dollar a month."
*' I'll pay now," said Hollis. He made a mental note
to ask Jerry about that. He wanted to know more
about dues — something he had always regarded as
paying tribute to work.
The meeting was scheduled to open at eight thirty.
At nine they were ready. Before it started, Hollis re-
ceived one more surprise, when the president of the lo-
cal came in and took his place. The president was none
other than Freddy Brown.
At nine Freddy wrapped his gavel on the table.
" Meeting will please come to order," he said.
The hum of voices died down.
" Will the secretary read the minutes of the last
The secretary did. It involved a routine account of
members present, new recruits, dues standing, and
questions that were discussed and actions taken.
Then old business was in order. There was no old
business. New business was in order.
Hollis looked around to see who might have some
new business and what that business might be. The men
sat waiting just as he did. After a moment, Joe La-
trim asked for the floor. The chairman gave him that
Latrim stepped to the front of the table with the easy
air of a practiced orator. Deliberately, as an attention
getter, he took off his jacket and folded it over the back
of a chair. Then he rolled up his sleeves.
Hollis was reminded of the two VSP men who had
been ready to beat him up earlier in the day. Like the
VSP men, Latrim was big and burly. He had jet-black
hair and shaggy eyebrows that he drew together in an
ostentatious manner when he wanted to appear impor-
Preliminaries over, Latrim addressed the gathered
men In calculated tones. He was conscious of his pow-
ers as an orator and made full use of them.
He talked about the union men who had been at-
tacked at the gates.
" Labor will not forget this dayl " he thundered as
though in a huge theater. " It will live in infamy,
ranking among the darkest deeds of this age.
" Our time will come, Brothers. We will use our
power to strangle the colossus which now tramples us
beneath its heavy heel. We will bring Vanguard to its
knees and make it plead for mercy 1 "
Latrim paused theatrically, pulling out a big hand-
kerchief and wiping his face. A ripple of applause
swept over the audience. It was not heavy. Latrim
frowned and continued.
Hollis felt a certain antagonism to Latrim that he
could not understand. Neither could he shake off the
feeling that Latrim could easily have been a VSP man.
Certainly he did not fit into the picture with the union
men who had taken the beating.
The oratory flowed over Hollis' head. He began
looking around to see how the others were taking it.
Some were reading papers that were In their laps. Oth-
ers looked ahead, expressionless. A few looked bored.
Freddy, who sat behind Latrim, was making a polite
effort to appear Interested, but doodled with a pencil
on a pad that was before him.
Latrim was still going strong, trying to whip up the
smoldering hatred that the men already felt for the
plant. He went into gory detail about the beating that
had taken place, and grew maudlin about '' labor's
brave heroes who have bared their breasts to the swords
of the hired company assassins."
That was silly, Hollis felt. Latrim hadn't been
there. There was no sense in trying to make things
look worse than they were. The cold facts were bad
enough. Much worse, in fact, than Latrim's hammy
Hollis felt like jumping up and telling Latrim to be
quiet. Either that or say something constructive. But
the man ran his vocabulary into the ground, repeated
himself over and over, and finally sat down after mak-
ing new threats against Vanguard.
Latrim sat in his chair, puffing importantly. Freddy
looked around. *' We have all heard Brother Latrim,"
he said. " Is there any discussion? "
Hollis expected a discussion. He waited for some-
one to get up and bring up some of the important ques-
tions that Jerry told him the union was concerned with
— better conditions, annual wages. He looked around
to see who would take the floor.
No one did. The men sat around apathetically.
They had nothing to say.
Hollis hesitated about getting up. He was new —
but he was a member. He did have the right to speak
his mind. After all, this was an organization of and
for the men in the factory. He put up his hand. Jerry
looked at him quizzically.
Freddy recognized him. *' Brother MacEachron
has the floor," he said.
Hollis stood up. He was shaking. A nervousness
that tied up his tongue tightened its hold on him. He
swallowed, searching for words. Latrim was watch-
ing him closely.
" Brother Chairman," said Hollis, using the form of
address that seemed to be the rule. " I'm new here,
and I don't like to take on more than I ought to. But
I'd like to say a few words."
" The floor is yours, Brother," said Freddy.
" I joined this union," said Hollis, " because I was
told that it was the only way I could get a fair deal in
the plant. I was told that the union was trying to get
better conditions for all of us. That sounded good to
" Then I came here tonight and I can't see. Brother
Chairman, just how the union is going to do it."
Latrim jumped to his feet. ** What are you trying
to do? " he shouted. *' Break up this meeting? "
Freddy pounded with his gavel. " Order, order."
*' I'm not trying to break up anything," said Hollis.
" But I can't see what good it's going to do to call the
company names and talk about revenge. I don't see
how that's going to help us any. If all the union is for
is to carry on war with the VSP, I'd like my dollar
Hollis sat down. The men were alert now, whisper-
ing and looking at him. Latrim got the floor again and
started a bitter attack against Hollis.
*' What does the new member want us to do ? Crawl
on our bellies to the company and ask to be patted on
the head? Fight fire with fire I We're as tough as the
VSP, and maybe tougher. If they want to start rough
stuff, we can show them a few things about It. If the
new Brother is afraid, let him go back to his mother
and hide behind her skirts."
Hollis was on his feet again. The meeting was turn-
ing into a duel between him and Latrim. Hollis real-
ized that Latrim had the advantage of being known,
and of being in power. But that didn't stop him. The
lanky country boy with the rugged face wasn't one to
be shouted down when he thought he had some of the
right on his side.
When Hollis stood up someone in the back of the
room shouted a motion for adjournment of the meeting.
Cries of " Steam roller I " echoed it angrily. Freddy
hammered with his gavel. " Brother MacEachron has
the floor I "
Hollis faced his audience, seeing their faces as a
blur. But he spoke calmly, and to the point.
" I joined the union to work for the good things It
had to offer," he said. " I'm willing to go a long way
to work for them. But I'm not ready to start an un-
official war with Vanguard."
Hollis lost all his nervousness. His feelings were
too strong now to allow any stage fright.
" Right now," he said, " Americans are giving their
lives to defend this country. They're not just fighting
and dying for me, or you, or any person or company.
They're doing It for all of us.
" We're back here turning out the machines they
need. We've got to give them all the help they need.
I don't say we should give up our attempts to get a bet-
ter deal from Vanguard. That's one of the things
they're fighting for. But the boys aren't fighting for
our right to beat up Vanguard people, or their right to
beat us up."
" But they're doing it," someone shouted.
" And they are wrong," answered Hollis. " That
doesn't mean we have to be wrong too. If I was Hitler,
nothing would make me happier than to see the union
and the VSP going at each other with hammer and
tongs. As long as we're fighting each other, we can't
'' My Idea," said Hollis, " is that we ought to cam-
paign for peace with Vanguard, and not for war. The
people are going to get mad if we keep having dog-
fights, and the first thing we know the Government will
have to step in and make us do what we ought to have
the sense to do by ourselves. I suggest we make our
program known all over the country. If It's a good one,
it will be good for everybody and not just for us. The
company won't be able to fight our ideas with VSP men.
They'll have to meet with us, or give a pretty good rea-
son why they shouldn't."
When Hollis sat down, he got a chorus of approval,
mingled with only a few catcalls.
*' You're a regular Daniel Webster," whispered
Hollis grinned. '* I like the kind of union you talked
about," he said, " but not the kind Latrim has to offer."
Other speakers, spurred on by Hollis, took the floor
in his support. They too pointed out that the only way
the union could get the recognition it deserved was to
show that it deserved respect. Violence should be
avoided at all costs, they argued, and the union program
shouted from the housetops.
The argument went back and forth as men arose to
take sides. Hollis, inexperienced but observing, began
to see where the lines were drawn. He saw who were
in the faction that supported Latrim without reserva-
tion, and he also saw those who saw eye to eye with
Finally the meeting broke up. A crowd of men
surged around Hollis, congratulating him on the way
he had spoken up.
Hollis, flushed by such a strange situation as he was
now in, felt the inward sweep of exultation that all men
feel when they find within themselves latent powers of
leadership. He determined to study more about union-
ism. He was convinced that it could do good, if given
the right direction. He was hungry for a new kind of
As he was leaving, Hollis looked back at the plat-
form. Latrim, sullen and shaggy, sat in his chair,
chewing on a cigar, his eyes boring at HolHs.
Hollis met those black, burning eyes and looked them
down. But, as he left, Hollis had the premonition that
he was going to have trouble with Latrim before he
ON THE WAY HOME FROM THE UNION MEETING, JERRY
suddenly started to laugh.
*' What's funny? " Hollls asked. He was still tin-
gling from his new experiences in the union meeting.
His head had been full of plans and ideas as he walked
"You," said Jerry.
** Do you think I made a fool of myself? "
" Oh, no," Jerry said seriously. " Not at all. You
did a fine job. But you certainly didn't lose any time.
A few hours ago you didn't know a union from a tea
party, and now you're becoming the spokesman for the
rank and file."
HolHs whistled. ** I didn't know there was anything
military connected with the union."
Jerry stared, then made a face. He hated to bring up
inner union politics, but as Hollis was already out on a
limb, he might as well know how much weight it would
Jerry started explaining in a circuitous way: " * Rank
and file ' is what we call the ordinary members. But I
want to warn you you'd better be careful about crossing
blades with Latrim."
Hollls waited for the explanation. '' He's a tough
customer,'' Jerry continued. "An old union man, but
he's got some funny notions."
*' How does he fit In? " asked Hollis.
" He's hired by the organizing committee," Jerry
went on. " You see, Hollls, we need men who can give
their full time to union problems — men who are paid
by the union to lead organization drives, guide the
union, and do the things that the rest of us aren't able
to, or haven't the time for."
" Did Latrim work at Vanguard? "
" No. He's been In the labor movement a long time,
from what I hear. Been a professional organizer for a
number of years. He knows union organization from
top to bottom. That's why he was hired."
" Frankly," said Hollls, '* I wasn't much Impressed
with him. He reminded me of the VSP."
Hollls wondered what Jerry's reaction would be to
this criticism of a union leader. Jerry was silent for a
" I'm not much impressed either," said Jerry. " But
he's the best we can get now, until we develop our own
leadership from among the workers In the plant. La-
trim's one of the old-timers. He's come through a lot
of bloody battles, and as far as he is concerned it's war
between the unions and the companies."
" Has it always been like this? " Hollls asked fur-
ther. " Fights, hatred — all of the bad things I've seen
" Pretty much like that."
" Then it ought to be changed," said Hollls. " I
don't know how labor and capital got off on the wrong
foot, but I don't see any use in standing on it like an
" Sure it ought to be changed," said Jerry. " But
how? You can't argue with the VSP."
'* Go above them," said Hollis. " After all, people
who were smart enough to start a business like Van-
guard ought to be smart enough to handle their labor
problems with some sense. We've got to get to those
" They won't listen," said Jerry glumly. " The own-
ers are convinced that the union is out to wreck their
business, that we're a bunch of irresponsible hoodlums.
They refuse to meet with us as equals."
" I still think," said Hollis, " that if we had the right
approach, we could show them we were responsible.
But we never will as long as people like Latrim are in
charge, talking about revenge, and fighting. That only
makes matters worse."
" Try your best," said Jerry. " I agree with you, and
so do a lot of others. But keep an eye on Latrim. If
he thinks you're trying to take away his power, you're
apt to find the goon squad camping at your door."
'* What's the goon squad? "
** The VSP with a union label," said Jerry. " What
it amounts to is a picked group of our own toughies who
do the rough work on company men and union men
who don't toe the line."
" Do the union leaders approve of that? "
Jerry shook his head. " You saw the boys who were
attacked this morning. They don't believe in goon
^ 121 ^
squads. But goons are unofficial. In order to get rid
of them you have to get rid of the old-line bullies like
Latrim, who use them."
** Then what it amounts to," figured HoUis, " is that
weVe got a double fight on our hands. One is to clear
the union of fellows like Latrim who are behind the
times, and the other is to show some of these big com-
panies that they and their special poHce are just as old-
" Right," said Jerry. " That's just what Roy Wal-
ters is trying to do."
"Who's Roy Walters?"
Jerry stared again. *' Don't you even know the
President of the GEIU? " he asked, astonished.
" Never heard of him."
" He's our top leader," said Jerry. " He was one of
the three at the gate this morning. Roy used to be in
the Vanguard plant, but he studied a lot and became
one of the first organizers in the auto industry. When
the union grew, he was elected president at the first
convention and has been re-elected twice."
** You mentioned his plan — "
" It's called the Walters Plan. What it amounts to
is a kind of joint operation of the factories for the ben-
efit of the country. Walters points out that the work-
ers in the different departments know a lot about how
much they can turn out and what improvements can be
made. His idea is to have labor represented when pro-
duction plans are made, and for labor to co-operate
with the management in order to get the maximum
amount of production.
" Of course part of the plans deal with the welfare
of the men, and with our working conditions. But if
production can be planned more efficiently, and our work
is steadier. It will be better all the way around. It
doesn't do anyone any good when a couple of hundred
thousand auto workers are out of work at a time when
the country needs every truck and tank that we can
turn out. Better planning would eliminate that."
" This Walters seems to have some good ideas," said
" You bet," said Jerry. " He had a plan all worked
out to make the conversion from peacetime production
to wartime production much easier. He even showed
how the companies could save time and money, using
existing machinery in many cases. He wanted the plan
to be used long ago, before the war."
" What happened to the plan? "
Jerry snorted. " What you might expect. The big
shots who own the industry wouldn't listen to him.
They made a lot of statements about how he was try-
ing to run their business, and how much more they
knew about it than he did."
^' Fell through, eh?"
*' So far. And look what's happened. The compa-
nies — Vanguard included — went along on a business-
as-usual basis. Now that the war is here, we have to
stop in the middle of things and make changes that
should have been made long ago. Factories will be
idle, men out of work, and materials will be held up —
all because they thought they knew it all."
Jerry's words made Hollls angry deep inside, angry
i5r 123 <f
at the people who wouldn't listen. " I always figured
a man had a right to run his business the way he saw
fit," said Hollis, " but I'm beginning to see differently.
When the fate of the country might depend on produc-
tion, I don't see how you can allow a man to do as he
pleases. It's bigger than how he feels or how anyone
Jerry grinned a little. " Better be careful, Hollis,"
he said jestingly. " The next thing you know you'll be
called a Socialist, or a Red."
" I'm tired of name-calling," said Hollis. " That
won't do anything but get us hoarse. I want you to do
a lot of explaining to me, Jerry. I'm getting into this
union business with both feet."
When they reached home, Jerry helped Hollis to
move his stuff into the room they were to share. Hol-
lis showed Jerry his tools, handling them gently. " It
took me years to collect these," he said, half to himself.
" I picked every one special." HolHs dug up a rag and
wiped the tools, although they shone with cleanliness.
Jerry sat on the bed watching Hollis fuss tenderly
with the box of tools.
"You shouldn't have come to Motor City," Jerry
Hollis looked up, surprised.
" You don't belong here," said Jerry, moodily punch-
ing a pillow.
" I'm doing all right," Hollis defended himself. " I
think I've got that job of mine by the tail."
" It's not that, Hollis. It's just — well — you ought
to be someplace where you could use those tools of
'' Truth IS," said Hollis, regretfully closing the box
and pushing it under the bed, *' I don't intend to stay
around all my life. I figured Fd work in Motor City
long enough to get some money ahead and then go to
school. Someday I'd like to be an automotive en-
" Nobody wants to stay here," said Jerry with sud-
den emphasis. " You want to study. That's your
chicken farm, but you'll never get it. Nobody ever
" What chicken farm are you talking about? " asked
Hollis. "You're not talking in your sleep, are you?
School, chicken farm — "
Jerry got off the bed and paced up and down the
room. " Your school," he said again, *' that's your
chicken farm. All of us have our chicken farms. Mine
used to be to go to college and study medicine." Jerry
spoke jerkily. " Most of the men try to save enough
so they can retire when they get too old to work on the
assembly line. Retire and raise chickens out in the
country. Nine out of ten have that idea, and most of
them already have the farm picked out.
" They never do it. Save a little money and the
plant closes down. You sit around and eat up your
money. Never have enough to buy the farm. That
goes on for years. Take my case. I came here three
years ago, figuring the same as you. I did get a little
ahead, but then I was laid off. Didn't have enough for
college, so I had to stay and hope I could work long
enough the next year. Used up all my money before I
got a job. That happens every year. It'll happen to
" Maybe," said Hollls. " Of course, now that we
are in the war, we may all be in the Army."
" WeVe more valuable here," said Jerry. " They
wouldn't take us even if we asked to go."
A locomotive pulling a long Hne of trucks and cars
pulled out of the Vanguard plant, blowing for the right
" There go some of my differentials," said Hollls.
*' There goes part of you," said Jerry. " Let's turn
in, Hollis. I'm whiffed."
Tired as he was, Hollis remained awake for a long
time. He realized that he had not thought of Pop for
a long time. Thinking of him now, Holden and the ga-
rage seemed millions of miles away. It seemed to Hol-
lis that he had been in Motor City all his life, tighten-
ing nuts with a speed wrench. His thoughts slid back
from Holden to Motor City. As though on a giant
screen, he saw his work, and the factory, and the men
who had been attacked in the morning. His thoughts
moved on to the union.
Hollis smiled in the darkness. He wondered what
Pop would say if he knew Hollis was a union member.
Hollis was glad he had joined the union, even if
there were some things about it he did not understand
In a way it was like the factory. The men came and
sat, attending as they should, but taking no active part.
The few union leaders were like the straw bosses and
superintendents who ran the local show and made the
local decisions. And far away, like the owners of the
company, were the big union leaders. In each the in-
dividual was a cog, Insignificant by himself and Impor-
tant only as a part of something large and impersonal.
Outwardly, Hollls was just another man on the as-
sembly line. A little newer than the others, a little
rawer, perhaps, but still just another pair of hands,
functioning to the dictates of the machine that paced his
But inwardly he was still the boy with the toolbox,
who had come to Motor City to build cars with his
hands and brain.
For a brief moment HoUis saw himself in a dream-
like mind picture. He saw a bewildered, strong-mus-
cled youth walking slowly along with a toolbox clutched
in his hand. And as he walked, two great impersonal
boulders — the union and the company — rolled to-
gether, crushing him between them as they clashed.
Hollls was at his machine in the morning, waiting for
the power to be turned on. Freddy stood beside him.
Hollls nodded a greeting, which Freddy returned.
Freddy motioned for Hollls not to mention anything
about the events of the past night, and Hollls nodded
that he understood. Then the power came on with a
steady hum, and the line began to roll.
Immediately Hollls knew that something was
changed. He was working well, but he wasn't keeping
up. He flashed a glance at Freddy. Freddy was bit-
ing his lower lip, working viciously. He caught Hollis'
eye and answered the question that showed.
" Speed-up," said Freddy.
Speed-up. Hollls had heard it mentioned, now he
was a part of it. Speed-up. The men were working
smoothly at the rate of seventy units an hour. But sev-
enty wasn't enough. The schedule was heavy. The de-
mand was loud: More trucks. More light reconnais-
sance cars. More jeeps. More everything. Fast.
They adjusted the motor that ran the conveyer belt.
It hummed a little shriller as it picked up speed.
Seventy wasn't enough. Seventy-five wasn't enough.
Eighty was getting close. Eighty-five was touching the
limits. It went to eighty-five.
The starters fumbled and sweated. Down went their
hands to grasp the six nuts they needed. Place, spin,
place, spin, place, spin.
The speed wrenches sang constantly. Their snarl-
ing was never still. Hollls stepped up his production.
There was no argument, no consultation. The machine
was set at eighty-five, and the men had to work that
fast. If the machine was slowed, the men worked
slower. Yes, Master Machine, whatever you say I
Hollls worked too fast to talk, but he could still
think. He thought of something that had never once
entered his mind when he had been working for Pop —
the fairness of his salary.
One thing was obvious to Hollls. The moment the
machine speeded him up from seventy units an hour to
eighty-five, his wages had been cut.
Under the old standard the company had been turn-
ing out seventy units an hour, and he had been paid
fifty-seven cents. Now he was getting fifty-seven cents
for turning out eighty-five units.
When the cars were finished, if they were finished at
the same rate, it meant that fifteen out of every eighty-
five cars didn't cost the company a cent for labor. Yet
the price would be the same to the buyer.
It also meant that the quota of cars would be fin-
ished sooner, and he would be out of work quicker than
if they had kept the old standard. It was a vicious cir-
cle. The faster you worked, the quicker you were out
of a job, the more cars you turned out, and the more
the company made.
Maybe, thought Hollis, if the line moved smoothly
at eighty-five units, eighty-five and not seventy would be
the norm. Then the speed-up would start creeping to-
ward ninety, and even above.
HoUis knew that cars were needed. He was glad to
help to turn them out. But it didn't seem fair that
when it was over the company had more money while
the men had neither money nor jobs.
As he saw it, some kind of annual wage arrange-
ment was the only protection. Hollis tried to figure
how that might work.
The first thing he would do, he thought, would be to
figure out a fair normal rate of production — say sixty-
five or seventy units an hour. That would keep a man
moving, but it wouldn't leave him feeling ready to fly
apart at the end of the day.
The company could figure its labor cost at the rate
of men turning out seventy units. Then, if it became
necessary, as in this war crisis, for the men to speed up
their output, they would be given credit for the extra
units and paid for them in proportion to their regular
That wouldn't be unfair, Hollis figured. If the com-
pany could make money by hiring men to work at a sev-
enty speed, it ought to give them more when they hit
eighty-five. That was only paying a man for his work.
Hollis told Jerry about his ideas when they were walk-
ing home from work.
" The only trouble is," said Jerry, *' we're not being
paid for our work."
Hollis snorted. " No ? Then what are we being
*' Our time," said Jerry. " We're paid so much an
hour for spending eight hours a day in the factory.
That time belongs to the company. You can see for
yourself that it doesn't make any difference how much
work we do as far as pay is concerned. If we were
actually paid for the work we put in, it would be
*' Like renting a thresher, isn't it?" said Hollis.
" A farmer pays so much a day for use of the machine.
How much use he gets out of it depends on him."
" That's getting close to it," said Jerry.
Hollis felt more than ever that he was ceasing to
be a man. He was fighting with all his might the great
drag of forces that were turning him into a living ma-
chine, but he felt that he was losing the battle. He was
slowly sinking beneath the surface, and each new dis-
covery was pulling at his legs.
But as the weeks passed, Hollls went to his work
regularly. He worked on his differentials, not know-
ing what happened to them after they left him.
The speed-up on the assembly line also speeded up
union activity. Men who had gone through speed-ups
before without bothering with the union, now con-
sidered Its program. The faster the wheels turned,
the nearer they saw themselves to unemployment.
Added to that, union victories in the steel plants gave
them new hope.
The union chose this time to ask the Government for
an election at the Vanguard plant to determine
whether or not It could be the bargaining agent.
While the Government waited with Its answer, Hol-
lls worked tirelessly alongside Jerry and Gabby to
swing men to their side. Differences with Latrim were
forgotten as all factions united to swing the big elec-
tion. Once the union won its right to bargain with
Vanguard, the factions would be fighting their inner
struggle for power. Now it was all for the GEIU
Jerry was the first one in the house to find out the
news. His face was white. " WeVe got an election
coming up In a week,'' he announced at dinner. He
was too nervous to eat.
After dinner, for the hundredth time, the men sat
around and tried to figure their strength. " V^e've got
ir 131 ^
a thousand men here, out of twelve hundred. WeVe
weak here in the night shift. Don't know about body
assembly — they've got a lot of new men — "
They covered sheets of paper with wild figures and
Up until the very day of the election, no worker
dared wear his union button openly at the plant. The
VSP prowled around like uneasy mastiffs, sniffing a new
wind that bore them no good. Among the workers
there was the tenseness of hope and fear.
And then the election came. The time of leaflet-
passing and arguments was over. Hollis was weary
and red-eyed from lack of sleep. He had spent all his
evenings calling on fellow workers to urge them to
vote for the GEIU. It had been done at night, safe
from the inquisitive eyes of scouting VSP men.
The long lines of men that stood waiting their turn
were silent. One by one, the men stepped up to take
their ballots, step behind the curtain, mark them, and
leave. Union and company watchers watched each
other like hawks, while policemen patrolled the area,
Hollis voted at the end of his shift. He marked a
big X in the box opposite the GEIU line and dropped
his vote in the container.
As Hollis stepped outside, he saw a VSP man watch-
ing him. Acting on impulse, Hollis reached in his
pocket and pulled out his union button. Slowly, de-
ifiantly, he pinned his button to his overalls, and walked
His act of confidence inspired others. Union but-
tons popped up on all sides as men forgot their fears.
The very act of voting gave them faith and confi-
dence in their country and Government. It was still
a sign that men had a voice in their own destiny. The
open defiance of the VSP was the act of free men, un-
But as HoUis walked home, there was still a funny
feeling in the pit of his stomach. If the union lost, he
was a marked man. But even that thought couldn't
frighten him. He had been pushed down about as far
as he could go. Hollis had reached his limit. He was
going to fight back, against anybody and everybody
who tried to intimidate him, regardless of whether it
was Vanguard or Latrim.
HoUis worked all next day without knowing the an-
swer. It was only when he left the plant that he knew.
The thousands who were coming on for the next shift
were coming joyously — and every man wore a union
button prominently displayed on his shirt.
The results were known, and the union was busy.
They had put up temporary quarters near the plant
and were besieged with men wanting applications. It
was as though a heavy weight had been lifted. Men
who had been silent and without hope had new light in
their eyes. There was hope, not for everything to be
perfect, but for a chance to be heard, — a chance to
speak to the company as equal men, without fear of
being fired or beaten up for speaking out.
Hollis took the actual news calmly.
Jerry was jumping into the air with happiness.
" What a victory I " he shouted.
^ 133 ^
Hollls thought of Latrlm. "And what a responsi-
bility," he added soberly.
That night Mrs. Billings had a special dinner for
them. It was as festive as a banquet. Afterward
they all went out to join a union torchlight victory
The mute workers of Motor City had come to life.
Men who went to work silently and returned home
silently suddenly woke as from a deep sleep. Voices
that had only been raised in anger now shouted union
victory songs. All along the caravan of slow-moving
cars the words were chanted — old union songs that
were new to Motor City.
" Solidarity forever ... in un-ion we are strong,"
and all the others.
Hollis jumped on the running board of one of the
cars. Everyone seemed to be wearing a union button.
He saw men who worked in the same shop with him,
and with whom he had never exchanged a word. Now
they shouted to him, slapped him on the back, and
called him " Brother."
Hollis felt the exhilarating sweep of the mass. He
was caught up in its mass singing, its mass joy. The
torches whirled in the night. It was unreal, but power-
ful. It was as though all the world wore union buttons
and marched or drove in the parade.
Hollis was aware that he was shouting — singing
— joining the irresistible pull of the mass. His own
voice was lost among the thousands, but he shouted
anyway, until he was hoarse. He had never seen any-
thing like it. He was overwhelmed, drowned, and
completely merged in the surge of the crowd.
It lasted for hours. Suddenly, as always happens,
the torches seemed to go out, and the blackness of the
night moved in. Mass joy gave way to mass weari-
ness — it seemed to come to everyone at once.
The sidewalks reflected the heat of the day. Paper,
streamers, leaflets, all Httered the streets. A heavy,
tired quietness set in, louder than the sound had been.
Here and there a last defiant yell of triumph
sounded in the night, faraway and weakly shrill.
Hollis walked home, footsore and weary. Depres-
sion and sadness set in quickly on the heels of his un-
thinking joy. All the problems that had seemed solved
now moved back in to sit in his brain.
There was yet so much to be done —
Hollis bought a paper from a newsboy and looked
at the headlines. War, violence, oppression — He
folded the newspaper and walked home.
Striding down the sidewalks, moving easily across
streets still filled with cars, finding his way by habit, and
no longer looking in store windows and gaping at the
prices, Hollis went home.
He went with the long country stride of the past.
But the tan of his face and arms was gone before the
summer, and the pallor of indoor work had begun to
mark him unmistakably as from the assembly line and
not the farm.
COMING HOME, HOLLIS SAW A LIGHT BURNING IN THE
living room. His step quickened. Jerry was probably
there. He hadn't seen Jerry all night and regretted
that they hadn't been able to celebrate their triumph
But when HoUis went into the house, he found only
Mrs. Billings. She was sitting in a chair by the lamp,
asleep, with an open book in her lap. The noise HoUis
made coming in awakened her.
" You're up late, Mrs. Billings," said Hollis. " It's
a good bit past midnight."
" Well, it's Saturday night," she said. " Everybody
else was up and out, so I thought I'd keep up with the
times and sit up awhile myself."
*' Is Jerry home yet? "
" No. By the way, Hollis, you had a visitor to-
"A visitor — to see me?" Hollis scratched his
head, trying to think who in Motor City knew him well
enough to pay him a call.
Mrs. Billings fumbled in the pocket of her apron.
" He gave me his name/* she said. *' Fve got It on a
card. Short, fat man, always rubbing his head with a
HoUIs grinned. " That sounds like Pop Farnham.
He was from Holden, wasn't he? "
Mrs. Billings found the card and squinted at it.
" That's right, HoUIs. I've a poor memory for names,
but I should have known."
"Where Is Pop? Here?"
" I asked him to stay, but he'd already gotten a room
at the hotel. Said he'd like to see you in the morning."
HoUIs went to the phone. " What hotel Is he at? "
" The Plendom."
HoUIs knew the place — an average hotel with good
rates. Pop would be all right there. Despite the fact
that it was almost one In the morning, HoUIs dialed the
hotel. He waited impatiently whUe Pop's phone rang.
Finally the receiver at the other end was lifted and he
heard Pop's sleepy voice.
*' HeUo, Pop," HoUIs shouted. " HoUIs."
"You owl," said Pop. "Where you been? You
didn't used to stay up all night."
HoUIs laughed. " I was at the parade," he said.
" What parade was It ? It's kept me awake half the
HoUIs was about to answer when he realized that he
couldn't tell Pop it was the union parade — not tell him
so suddenly. Pop wouldn't understand. It would have
to come slowly, after they had seen each other.
" I'll tell you aU about it when I see you," said HoUIs.
" Why don't you come over for Sunday dinner, and then
we can spend the afternoon together.'*
Pop yawned loudly. " That's swell, Hollis. Are
you sure it will be all right with your landlady? I
wouldn't want to put her to no extra trouble."
'* Mrs. Billings," called Hollis, " will you have room
for Pop at Sunday dinner tomorrow? "
" Always room for one more," she said. " Just tell
him to be on time."
" If it's a meal, you don't have to worry about Pop
being on time," Hollis grinned.
" What's that? " Pop's voice came thinly over the
phone. "What did you say? "
*' I said go back to sleep," said Hollis. " And be
here at twelve noon on the minute."
''All right. Good night, Hollis."
" Good night. Pop."
Hollis hung up and stood by the phone for a moment,
"Does he know you belong to the union?" asked
Mrs. Billings, reading Hollis' mind.
Hollis shook his head. " He'll understand though,"
said Hollis thoughtfully. " Pop always understands."
Next morning, when Hollis returned home from
church. Pop was filling the big easy chair with his un-
easy bulk. He was scrubbed and shining, but obviously
uncomfortable in his strange surroundings. His white
shirt was a little too small for him and, aided by his
tie, was doing a good job of half-choking him every
time he raised his head. His face was beet red. His
inevitable bandanna was clutched in his right hand, and
every few moments he wiped his brow, sighing.
The rest of the men in the house were also at home,
silently reading their newspapers. The habit of not dis-
cussing union or shop affairs before strangers still per-
sisted, although Pop had been identified as a friend of
Pop jumped up when he saw Hollis, a wide smile
speeding to each corner of his mouth. He stalked across
the floor to the door, his hand held out in greeting.
Hollis shook hands with him, squeezing Pop's pudgy
" Met the boys yet. Pop? "
Pop shook his head. *' Not formal-like."
HoUis introduced him to the others. " Pop's the
fellow I told you about that I used to work for in
Holden," said Hollis proudly.
Pop turned redder than ever. He turned attention
away from himself by talking about Hollis. " I bet
you're showing this town we grow real mechanics back
in Iowa," said Pop. " How soon you gonna own the fac-
tory? " He winked broadly at the others, who smiled
at his jest. They were a little embarrassed, because they
knew from what Hollis had told them that Pop had a
hunch that Hollis was going to take Vanguard by the
tail and show it how to make cars.
Hollis knew that the boys were anxious to talk about
the union but hesitated to do so in front of Pop. In
order to give them the cue that he wouldn't be around
long, Hollis announced casually that he was taking
Pop on a little tour of the plant in the afternoon. The
others were relieved. Their discussion could safely
After dinner Hollis put on his jacket before going
out with Pop. They walked in the warm sunshine, not
talking. Pop kept looking at Hollis' coat every few
moments. Finally he cleared his throat and asked,
" What's that button you're wearing, Hollis?"
Hollis looked down. The time had come.
" That? " he said lightly. " That's my union button.'*
Pop blinked. " I thought I heard you say union
button," said Pop, smiling gently.
" That's right. Pop," said Hollis. '* I'm a dues-
paying member in good standing. Belong to Local S3
of the GEIU, which stands for Gas Engine Inter-
"Are you a Red? " Pop asked suddenly. " Are you
really a Red, Hollis?"
Hollis stared at Pop and burst out laughing.
" It ain't a joke," said Pop sadly. " I never thought
you'd turn out to be against the Government and Ameri-
Hollis led Pop to a bench that was along the walk of
the park they were in. It faced the towering, grim
chimney giants across the street.
''The union isn't Red," Hollis explained seriously.
'* People have the wrong idea about us, Pop."
Pop wiped his forehead. " I know you wouldn't do
anything wrong, Hollis. But how about them other
fellers in the union? Always striking and making
trouble. I don't like to see you get mixed up with
" Sometimes a strike is necessary," Hollis said
slowly. " You know, Pop, from what I've studied, it
seems to me that workers strike when they haven't got
any other way out. If the companies would only talk
with the men, the men wouldn't strike. But if the man-
agement won't hear your side, and you don't get a
chance to talk, it all boils up inside and you strike, be-
cause that's the only thing left to do."
" Red talk," grunted Pop.
" I'm not a Red," Hollis said. " To tell the truth,
I don't even think I've ever seen one. It's just a word
to me. Pop. A word that's kicked around too much.
I'll bet you can't even tell me what a Red is."
Pop snorted. " Everybody knows that. He's against
religion, government, morals, private property, and
wants to take everything you've got away from you and
share It with somebody that — that — "
" Whoa, Pop," said Hollis laughing. " You'll never
get your wind back." He faced Pop seriously. " Are
you trying to say all those things about me ? "
Pop wouldn't answer. He had been hurt deeply.
*'Look here. Pop," said Hollis firmly. '* What
church did you attend this morning? "
Pop was startled. " Church ? Why — I — that is,
Hollis, I was up so late last night that I must have over-
" I was up late too, Pop. But I went. I'm surprised
at you. Pop, going overboard like that. You saw the
fellows who belong to the union. Fellows like Jerry
and Gabby and Harry. They didn't have any horns,
*' No. But Hollls, all this I've been reading in the
papers about unions making trouble. It's unpatriotic.
Everybody ought to pitch in at a time like this."
*' Right, Pop. But everybody means the owners as
well as the workers. I've seen it from the inside. It
isn't pretty. Men wondering how long they'll work.
Never knowing when they'll be tossed out without a
job, and never making enough to save any money to
tide them over bad periods. Something has to be done,
Pop, and every man can't act for himself. Every man
in the factory shares the same troubles with every other
man, and it stands to reason they should get together."
" You didn't need a union when you worked for me,"
Hollis smiled grimly. *' You didn't have any hired
thugs around to beat me up if I opened my mouth," he
said. " And there was one of me and one of you. But
here, where there are thousands of me and only one of
you, it's different."
Pop sighed. " Let's not talk about it any more. I'm
more interested in you. How are you, anyway? Are
you saving any money? Are you going to go to school?
Tell me about you."
Hollis looked at his hands. Hands that could work
mechanical miracles when given the chance. Hands
that longed for a chance to work at real problems, with
good tools. Hands that moved in a small orbit
day after day, week after week, hundreds of times a
" I'm on the speed wrench," said Hollis. He ex-
plained to Pop how it worked. " That's what I do
^ 143 ^
everyday. All day long. That'swhat I'll be doing next
year if I'm lucky enough to keep my job, and the year
after that. I haven't any more money now than when I
came. I get paid more, but things are higher here.
And from what I hear, just about the time I do get a
little ahead, I'll be laid off while new machinery is in-
stalled, and that will take all I've saved."
" School's still pretty far away, is it HoUis ? "
*' Miles, Pop. So far away I just can't see it."
Pop wiped his face. HoUis had changed. His voice
had an edge of cynical hardness. Even his face seemed
to have been set in harder lines. He seemed older. But
the thing that shocked Pop more than Hollis' pale face
and bitterness was HoUis' hands. They were always
on the move. Hollis, whose steady hands had always
reflected the calm, even course of his life, now showed
his new situation through those same hands. Without
knowing it, he drummed with his fingers, or rubbed them
together in a quick, nervous motion. There was about
his whole body that feeling of restlessness, of never
being still. Even when his mouth was quiet, and his eyes
closed wearily in the sun, his foot tapped steadily, or his
fingers twisted and turned in nervous motion.
'' How's Mr. Small? " Hollis asked.
" Fine. He asked about you. Said to tell you he'd
like a letter if you find the time."
" I've been meaning to write. But I never seem to
get down to it. It's hard to. After work it's hard to do
anything. You feel all worn out, but you can't sit down.
You keep walking around, fidgeting with things, wish-
ing the springs inside you would uncoil, so you could get
some rest. When you do get quiet enough to write —
then you're so tired you go right to sleep."
"Everybody Hke that? "
" No. Some fellows don't seem to mind it. Some
work under strain and noise all day and don't turn a
hair. Others can't take it at all. Most of us are in
the middle. We can do it if we have to."
" I couldn't work around a lot of noise," said Pop.
" I'd have the jitters."
" One of the good things Vanguard is doing is the
job tests they're going to have," said HoUis. " Every-
body takes the same tests, and they can find out from
that which men ought to have which jobs. Then they'll
try to fit the man to the job."
*' What's the union think of that? "
" For it a hundred per cent. Gives a man a better
chance to get ahead if he can get the right job."
*' Maybe you'll get to be a mechanic — ? "
Hollis shook his head. " Not me. Pop. TheyVe
got engineers to do the work I'd hke to get my hands on.
If I ever got through school, though, I'd like to make
a real try for that kind of job here."
Pop looked at the tremendous spread of the Van-
guard plant. " Big, isn't it ? "
Hollis nodded. He felt that Pop was just choosing
other words for really saying, " We're small, aren't
They went home late in the afternoon. The others
were still in the house, taking advantage of every spare
minute to rest.
This time they were more open in their speech. Pop
mainly sat and listened while they discussed the union
and the work.
There was a new man In their midst. Hollis remem-
bered having seen him at union meetings, but didn't
know his name. He was short and thin, with a sus-
picious look in his eyes, and a mouth that carried a per-
petual twist of cringing defiance. Gabby introduced
him. ** This Is Pete Eritt. He's joining us. Taking
your old room, Hollis."
Harry started telling something about a union affair
in his slow voice, dropping his h's and adding them to
beginning e's where they didn't belong.
Pop sat listening, saying nothing.
" Did you hear about Roy Walters ? " Jerry broke in.
" They let him out."
" Company decided to drop the charges and the union
won't prefer any. That's to help the new labor rela-
tions setup get off to a flying start."
" Good," said Hollis. " Maybe things are starting
to happen around here."
Pete Eritt snorted derisively. " It's the bunk," he
said contemptuously. *'It's the old run-around. The
idea is to get us off guard so they can deliver a sneak
"What's your Idea?" Jerry asked.
" Keep after Vanguard," said Pete. " Bring 'em
Into court. We won't win, because the courts is corrupt.
But we can make a howl. I wouldn't let 'em get away
with nothin'. If they get rough, we can get rougher, on
account of there's more of us." Pete guffawed.
Harry shook his head. " We want to get away from
that kind of thing. We can't always be 'ittin' at the
company and them at us."
" Always was that way and always will be/' grunted
Pete. " Now that we got the union recognized, we
ought to slap our demands on the table, and if they
won't take 'em, we oughta shut down the plant tighter
than a drum."
" That's a selfish attitude," said Pop, coming into the
discussion for the first time. " There are other people
in the world besides you. If the men fighting Hitler
don't get supplies from us, and he wins, you'll be
whistlin' a different tune."
Pete lit a cigarette and flicked the match on the car-
pet. *' Where'd this warmonger come from? " he said
nastily. He looked Pop over closely. *' Where's your
union button, Fat Stuff? "
" I don't belong to any union," replied Pop heatedly.
" And I'll work for nothing before I'd ever join one that
allowed you in."
Pete jumped up and advanced on Pop, the cigarette
dangling from his mouth. *' Watch your big mouth,"
he snarled, '* or I'll close it for you."
Everyone jumped to his feet, but Hollis was quickest.
He towered in front of Pete. " Sit down," said Hollis,
the muscles in his jaw quivering.
Pete stepped back. " Protecting a scab, huh? The
union's gonna hear about this. You'll get yours too."
Jerry pushed Hollis aside and confronted Pete. His
eyes were hot. " A few more cracks like that, and this
will be your last day here as well as your first." Jerry
^ 147 ^
turned to face Hollis. " Maybe I ought to tell you,
Hollis, that Pete is a very close friend of Latrim's.
And while I'm talking I'll say this : we know why you're
here, Eritt. We don't like stool pigeons in or out of
the union. You can run back and tell your pal Latrim
that I said so too.'*
Pete Eritt's face changed color. ** This place seems
to be too good for a union man," he sneered. *' All
right, I'm moving out. Right now too. But you guys
will be sorry you shot your mouth off about Latrim.
He's gettin' to be a big shot, and he'll ease you guys out
so fast you won't know what happened." Pete stalked
out of the room and went upstairs to get his things.
Gabby whistled. '' You spilled the works that time,
Jerry. And I thought I was the gabby one."
" I probably should have kept m.y mouth shut,"
growled Jerry. "'But I could see what that rat was
'' At least we're getting rid of him," said Harry. " I
didn't like the idea of his being around."
Hollis sat down. *' What's it all about?"
" Latrim's out to get you," said Jerry. " That's
what it's all about. He sent Pete to live here to keep
an eye on you and see if he could get anything on you
that he could pin some kind of frame-up on."
*' He could have stayed," said Hollis. " There's
nothing on me to get. I don't have to be afraid of
" You don't know Latrim," said Gabby. *' He's
an old hand at that sort of thing. He could get rid of
anybody. You're not through with him yet."
Pop's composure returned, and with it an active in-
terest in the intrigue that seemed to be settling around
HoUis. " Who's Latrim ? What's he got against Mol-
lis ? " Pop was up in arms at anyone who had ill inten-
tions toward the boy.
" One of our organizers," Jerry explained. " He's
got a lot of old-time notions, but he's also got a lot of
power. Hollis has some ideas that Latrim doesn't
like, so he's trying to get rid of HoUis."
" He'd better not try to hurt you," said Pop grimly
to Hollis. " Or he'll have to deal with me."
" Don't worry. Pop," said Hollis. " I can take care
of myself. But Latrim's the kind of union organizer
that gives the unions their black eye. He's like a weed,
and weeds can be hard to pull up once they've gotten a
" I always thought all union men were like that,"
Pop confessed. *' I'm glad to see I was wrong."
"Does HoUis know about the election?" Gabby
Jerry frowned at Gabby, but the secret was out.
Hollis looked around for an explanation.
" We're running you for shop steward in our depart-
ment," said Jerry. " You're sort of heading the move-
ment in our local against Latrim, and if you win, it will
be a blow to him."
" I don't know anything about being a steward,"
protested Hollis. " What does one do? "
" You're the union representative. When anybody
has a grievance, it goes through you. You get to meet
with the company to present our side."
*' Who's running against me? "
Jerry grinned. " I'll give you one guess."
HoUis looked up at the ceiling. " Eritt? "
" On the nose."
" I'll run," said Hollis. " Even if I was antiunion I
could do a better job than he could. He's too tough
for his size."
" Talks a lot," said Harry. " I've seen his like be-
fore, both here and in England. They make all the
noise, stir up all the trouble, and sneak out when the
showdown comes. We need responsible heads, like
'ollis 'ere. At least you can learn how to do things
right. That kind never will."
" What kind of a chance do I have? " Hollis asked.
** I'd like to know what I've got on my hands."
" Fifty-fifty chance. It'll be close either way. One
bad break for either side may decide the election."
" You'll get it, Hollis," said Pop. " Any man ought
to trust you twenty times over before he'd let that Eritt
**You don't know union politics," said Gabby.
" Right now our soul isn't our own. Other unions have
given money and organizers to help us get started.
Their pay for that is in cash and power. That's how
Latrim came in from the outside. It was either him or
" No other union is going to control the GEIU,"
Jerry vowed. " And no union politician, big or little, Is
going to use us as any pawn. We're getting stronger
now, and we'll be on our feet financially. Then we can
afford to pay our own organizers — men who came out
of the shops, like Roy Walters. And we'll run our own
union for the benefit of its members, as it ought to be
" With every convention packed with machine men ? "
" We'll unpack them. We'll fight to kick out every
Latrim in our union."
" If we can get the membership behind us, we can
do it. That's why we need people like Hollis to lead
our side. Honest people, who believe in democracy
and fairness. There aren't many men who won't stick
with us on those terms. Those who won't, we don't
" Right," chimed in Harry. " That's the spirit."
The tension eased, and the conversation turned to
other questions. Every topic of current interest came
in for its share of attention. The war, sports, politics.
Pete Eritt was completely forgotten.
During one of the lulls in the conversation, Pop, not
knowing what dynamite he carried on his tongue,
turned to Hollis and casually asked, " Did you ever see
that fellow that got you to come here in the first place
— that Jason somebody — Franks, wasn't it? "
As soon as the words were out of his mouth. Pop
knew he had said something wrong. The very air in
the room seemed about to explode. Hollis suddenly
reahzed that he had never gotten around to telling
anyone how he had come to Motor City in the first
place. And that it should come about at this time, in
this way —
Jerry stared at Hollis, and the suspicion in his eyes
was mirrored by Gabby and Harry. The silence was
painful. It was broken by a harsh, triumphant laugh.
They all turned to see Pete Eritt, a smug look on his
face, standing at the foot of the steps with his suitcase
in his hand.
He laughed again and went to the door, waving a
mocking salute. " Thanks for the information. Fat
Stuff," he said to Pop. He went out, slamming the
door behind him.
THE SOUND OF PETE ERITT'S FOOTSTEPS DIED AWAY,
and silence moved in on his heels. Silence that crouched
In the room and taunted Hollis. The air seemed to be-
come smoky with suspicion. The rustle of the newspa-
per In Harry's hands sounded like thunder. Pop's
tense, wheezy breathing hissed like a locomotive. The
warm sun poured In the windows, but the eyes that
looked at Hollis were cold.
Hollis looked from face to face. When his eyes met
Jerry's, he saw a fleeting look of hurt, and then the cold-
ness moved In again.
It was Harry, older, tired, and more tolerant, who
gave Hollis a chance.
'' It looks bad, 'ollis. What do you have to say about
Hollis snapped out of the lethargy that had struck
him. He shook off the feeling of helplessness. A flame
of rebellion Ignited in his heart and flared to indignant
height. He faced his friends seriously and simply, tell-
ing his story, telling how he had rescued Franks from a
ditch, and the conditions that led to his coming to Mo-
tor City. He told the full story — and they believed
" We believe you," said Jerry fiercely. " But that's
only because we know you. We're licked."
" I can withdraw from the election If I'm nomi-
nated," Hollls suggested.
Jerry shook his head. " You've got to go through
with It. Latrlm's got us right where he wants us now.
He'll spread the word that you're a spy, brought In
by the company. If you withdraw, he'll point to
that as proof of his accusation. You've got to fight it
*' Why should he be ashamed of having been given
a job by Franks? " put in Pop. " That doesn't make
Hollls a spy."
" It does to a lot of men here," said Gabby, biting
his fingernails. " You wouldn't know about this, Pop
— and I guess Hollls doesn't either — but fellows like
Hollls have been used to bust the union before."
" Like this," said Jerry. " The company goes out
into the farm sections, where antiunion feeling Is the
highest, and where young fellows aren't familiar with
our problems. It gives them jobs In the plant with the
understanding that these fellows will resist the union and
fight against it. Some companies even give the farm
boys an antiunion study course before they put them to
work. The men have had their fingers burned with that
kind of thing too many times. All they have to know is
how Hollls got his job, and his name Is mud."
HolHs saw then what would happen. Latrim would
use him as the scapegoat for an attack on all that Hol-
lis and his friends stood for. By discrediting Hollis,
Latrim could discredit Hollis' ideas about co-operation
and win complete control for his own faction.
Again Hollis felt the agonizing helplessness of be-
ing up against an impersonal world. He could con-
vince his few friends of his honesty, but he couldn't
convince ten thousand strangers. The more he cried
his good intentions, the more they would suspect him.
Hollis knew Latrim would try to hound him out of the
union and out of Motor City. Latrim was determined
to drive him out in such a way that everything Hollis
stood for would be thrown out with him.
"Why didn't you tell us this before?" Gabby
*' I never thought about it," confessed Hollis. He
was bitter against himself. " I was just a big dumb
kid from the country with a head full of romantic no-
tions about the auto plants.'* Hollis stopped. Some-
thing was revealed to him for the first time — some-
thing that took his breath away, as though he had been
hit in the solar plexus.
" The union isn't alone in thinking I'm a stool pi-
geon," he said dully. " So does the company."
Hollis got up and paced the floor. '* Jerry, remem-
ber the day the VSP grabbed me — my first day, when
I was changed from headlights to the speed wrench? "
Hollis clenched his big fists. " The reason they
changed me, and the reason they didn't beat me up,
was that I told them Franks had gotten me my job.
They said something about my being useful in the new
job, and they seemed glad I was rooming with you. I
didn't understand then, but I do now."
*' Sure," said Gabby. *' They put you next to Freddy
Brown because he's an active union man. You were
supposed to spy on him."
**And on me," said Jerry. "You should have told
" I wanted to, but it was all too confusing. I wanted
to find out what was going on before I talked too much.
Every time I opened my mouth, I either made some-
body mad or suspicious.'*
" You're in a fine mess now," said Harry, shaking
his head sadly.
Hollis wanted to tear something in his hands. He
was helpless. The big, unseen forces that moved around
him were grinding him between their wheels. What
was one man, or one voice? He could cry out, but he
would be a voice crying in the wilderness. One man
didn't have a chance. The mighty current of thou-
sands picked him up, sweeping him along. And when
that current decided to suck him under, or hurl him on
the beach, or slide him into a stagnant backwater, there
was nothing he could do about it. He was a man beat-
ing with his fists against the Chinese Wall.
" I'll fight it," said Hollis grimly. " I'll fight La-
trim's lies and the lying evidence that's against me. I
know my ideas are good. I won't let them be beaten off
by any self-seeking thug. I don't care about myself so
much. I can get other jobs. But it isn't just me. I
feel that I've got some of the answers to Motor City.
They've got to have a fair chance."
** We'll nominate you/' said Jerry. " We'll back you
up. Three days Isn't much time, but we'll do what
we can. Maybe we'll be licked this time, but we'll
Hollls noticed Pop. The stout little garageman was
sitting quietly with a doleful look on his face. He saw
what harm his careless words had done to Hollls. That
he, of all people, should be the one to hurt Hollls was
something that seared deep down Into Pop. His face
was gray, as though he suffered physical pain.
HoUIs sat down by Pop. " Don't worry," he said.
" If It wasn't this. It would have been something else.
I'd rather fight a true Issue than some frame-up Latrim
might try. After all. Pop, we can't win every battle.
It's the last one that counts."
Pop smiled thinly. *' Thanks, Hollls. I guess I'd
better be getting back to the hotel. My train leaves
Hollls put out a restraining hand. " You're not go-
ing to go feeling this way," he said firmly. Hollls felt
older than Pop, in a way.
Pop rose. " I've got to, Hollls. Garage has to be
open, you know. Tomorrow's Monday, and some
farmer will be In with a busted truck."
Hollls saw It was useless to argue. " O. K., Pop.
But don't worry about me. Maybe It's all for the best.
The sooner things come to a head, the sooner they'll be
Jerry, Gabby, and Harry shook hands with Pop.
They also urged him not to feel any remorse for what
" I'll try to explain what kind of union you stand
for,'* Pop promised. " So when you win, you'll have
some friends out in the farm country."
" That's the spirit," said Gabby cheerfully, clapping
Pop on the back. " You'll be doing us a real service
that way. Maybe we'll appoint you as a sort of travel-
ing union good-will man."
Pop insisted on going back to his hotel alone. HoUis
watched him go, looking through the window. Pop
tried to march away as though he had never heard of
trouble, but before he reached the end of the block his
shoulders sagged, and Hollis saw him reach for the big
red bandanna and blow his nose.
" Poor Pop," said Hollis quietly. " I feel sorry for
him." He turned away from the window. " Let's get
to work," he said crisply. *' We've got three days."
They started out by making a list of the men in their
local they could count on. Freddy Brown was one, and
he in turn could bring over a number of men. It finally
came down to the fact that they had a strength about
equal to Latrim's. The balance of power lay with the
intermediates — men who had no definite policies as
yet, new men in the union, silent ones, the " I don't
knows." They held the power. They would decide the
" We'd better go over and see Freddy tonight," said
Jerry. " He'll be home. Maybe he can help us get un-
After supper Hollis set out with Jerry and Gabby.
They had to walk across town to arrive at the Negro
section. Hollis had never been there before. He had
wondered where the Negro workers lived, and now he
You took the poorest of the white dwellings — the
unpainted houses, dreary row after dreary row — and
subtracted central heating, bathrooms, and sewers.
You imagined the lowest standard of living you could
exist under, and then you lowered it. That was the
Men like Freddy Brown were the luckiest. They
worked steadier than did the majority of Negroes in
the section. They could afford the better houses, and
the few meager comforts. But the entire section was
drab with poverty that knows no single ray of hope.
Here were the sweepings of Motor City. Here was an
ugly sore that could not be hidden, that belied the
story of sumptuous river homes and modernistic offices.
Here was the sprawling, dirty truth that cried failure
to the giant smokestacks and the impressive assembly
Shacks that leaned wearily in an effort to stand up
crowded close to the sidewalk. Broken windows, cov-
ered over with newspaper, were as numerous as whole
panes. Sagging porches, crumbling bricks, dingy stores.
The stench of a decayed city hung in the air, filling the
lungs of those who breathed it with sick despair.
Mass poverty in Motor City. Just like mass every-
thing else. Mass poverty — mass middle-class homes
in neat, dreary rows — mass production even of the
mansions that lined the river, even to the similar hedges,
the guest cottages, and the expensive motorboats in
similar boat houses.
Front porches were crowded. The nights were still
hot, and famihes found relief In the shadows of their
homes, watching with curious eyes the three white stran-
gers who walked In the city of the black.
" This is awful," Hollis whispered to Jerry. *' How
can they stand to Hve like this? "
" They haven't any choice," said Jerry. *' This is
the Negro section. All Negroes have to live here.
They can't rent houses in other parts of the city even if
they want to. They have to live here. So what hap-
pens? The real estate people who own the houses
charge them staggering rates for old shacks. It's take
it or leave Motor City."
" How do they manage? "
" By living together," said Jerry. " Some houses
have five or six families living together, each having
one room. In that way they can pay the rent."
" When they do work they get paid less than anyone
else," Gabby added. " Freddy is a rare case. Most
Negroes are given Inferior jobs. That's one thing the
union has to break down. Equal pay for equal work
and a chance for any man, regardless of his race or
color, to get a job that he's capable of handling."
They passed a large house with a sign nailed to a
porch post reading, " Hot Beds 50^."
Holhs pointed at the sign. " What are hot beds? "
" Just that," said Jerry. " Men who can't afford to
rent a room for themselves rent hot beds. The way it
works out, three men, each working a different shift,
rent the same room. Two of them are out while the
third one is sleeping there. When he leaves to go to
work, the next man comes home and has the bed for his
eight hours. Actually, the bed never gets cold. Some-
body's In it every hour of the day."
Assembly-line sleeping. Mass rest. The bed turns
out a rested man every eight hours, just as the line turns
out a car or a tank.
*' Why did they ever come here in the first place? "
burst out Hollis.
Gabby grinned cynically. " Same reason you did.
High wages. Most of them were recruited from the
deep South where conditions were the worst."
*' Sure. Whenever the company had a little trouble
with white workers, it would send agents Into Negro
sections of the country to lure men North with the
promise of good pay, more social freedom, and pros-
perity all the way around. So when the white men
struck, the Negroes were brought Into the factories to
keep them running and break the strike. When the
strike was broken the Negroes were kicked out, and the
white men went back under the old conditions, or
" Pretty game," grunted Hollis.
" More than that," added Jerry. " That situation
was used to create bad blood between the Negroes and
the whites. Company agents would tell the whites that
Negroes were taking their jobs away, and they'd tell
the Negroes the white workers didn't want them In the
factories. That was used to keep them fighting so they
wouldn't get together In the same union."
Hollis felt physical disgust. He could not imagine
anyone being that calculating and cruel, or that even
the worst kind of employer could dabble casually with
human misery. He still could not believe it of Jason
But that wasn't the end of it. Jerry and Gabby went
on to explain how the same line was used to divide the
white workers. Protestants were incited against Cath-
olics, and Catholics against Protestants, and both
against Jews. Polish workers were told their troubles
started on account of the Hungarians, and the Hungari-
ans were taught to hate the Russians.
Threading through each of the national and racial
groups were men who spread the poison of race hatred
and nationalism. These men were Fascists. By play-
ing upon these hatreds and building them up they grad-
ually became the leaders of these groups.
These Fascist leaders then got the ear of industry.
They represented themselves as men who could save in-
dustry from being taken over by Communism. They
built up the Red bogey, attacked unions, and fanned
hatreds — all under the guise of saving private enter-
prise. And much of business — some of it afraid,
some concerned, some worried, and others scheming —
supported the local Fascist groups, never dreaming
they were part of a world-wide scheme of terror and
That to a large degree was the poison that seethed
In the veins of Motor City. Even in the union itself the
Silver Shirts and their like tried for positions of leader-
ship — tried to poison group against group under the
cloak of Americanism.
Motor City, with Its labor problem, its giant Indus-
tries, and Its national and racial groups, became a focal
point where all the little Fascists gathered.
It was un-American to join a union, they cried. It
was un-American for Negroes to be in white unions. It
was un-American to include foreigners. The flag was
waved to shreds, the drums beaten to bits, and throats
shouted hoarse. The virus spread, contaminating those
it touched, rotting the minds it Infiltrated. Disunity
cracked the whip, and men became intolerant, suspi-
cious, and bigoted.
Three forces worked to combat the spread of this
evil virus. They were interested government, enlight-
ened management, and honest unionism. Awkward,
halting, and sometimes confused, they worked closer
together, seeking a common ground on which to meet.
*' It's a job for all of us," said Jerry. " Labor, man-
agement, and government. We've all got to do our
part. It won't be easy, but we can't afford to lose."
They went up the steps of Freddy's porch and
knocked on the door. Freddy answered their knock,
inviting them in with a wondering smile.
They sat in his living room and explained what had
happened at the boarding house. Freddy listened,
shaking his head slightly. His soft brown eyes were
troubled when he heard them through. " It's bad," he
murmured. " Bad." He stroked the side of his face
with a powerful hand, trying to think the matter
Freddy was a veteran in union affairs. He had come
into the union when it had been practically closed to
Negroes. Once he had fought his own way through,
he headed the struggle for the rights of other Negroes
Freddy had been able to read and study when he was
younger. He had been able to fight through his early
feeHngs of inferiority and sensitiveness to view the
problem of his people objectively. Once he saw and
understood their road to a fuller life, he gave himself
over to leading that struggle. Freddy was solid and
*' ril pass the good word along," Freddy promised.
" But Pm afraid Latrim's one up on us. He can make
it sound very bad."
There was a discreet knock at the door. Freddy
went to open it. Hollis heard someone whispering ex-
citedly to him while Freddy sought to calm his visitor.
Hollis caught the words " riot " and " shooting," and
felt an emptiness in his stomach.
Freddy returned alone. He was grave. He settled
into his chair and said nothing, thinking hard.
" Trouble about Negroes' getting jobs," he said qui-
etly. " White and colored workers clashed at the em-
ployment office. There were some clubs swung."
" Oh, oh," breathed Gabby.
Jerry's breath hissed in between his teeth. " What
*' There's a mob gathering at the park. They're go-
ing to organize to keep all Negroes away from the plant.
The fact that there were men in the fight today who
carried clubs shows that somebody was coming for
" Nobody's got a right to do that," said HoUis. " If
the company needs men and wants to hire Negroes,
that's a good thing. As far as I can see, the jobs should
go to the men who can do them best, no matter what
their color is."
" It's not that simple," said Jerry. " It's like we
were telling you. The first Negroes who came here
were brought in by the company to break a strike. That
made the union sore at them, and the union wouldn't let
them in. When the strike was broken, the Negroes
were kicked out, and the white workers taken back.
The only time the company would ever hire them was
to break a strike. You can see what that did. It made
white workers hate the Negroes, and the Negroes hate
the whites. Lately the union got a little wiser and
began taking in Negroes. Now that the company wants
to hire them, these two-bit Fascists are trying to wreck
things by provoking a riot."
" There's still so much bad feeling," said Freddy.
*' We still don't have the trust we should have to work
together. My people have been promised jobs, and
those promises must be kept." His voice was deep with
feeling. " If we are turned away again, it will shatter
the faith of many of our people in our democracy. It
will mean that we are second-class citizens when good
things are given out, but first-class citizens when men
are needed to fight."
*^ We can't let a small group of vicious people wreck
the chances of your people to get jobs," said Hollis.
" What can the union do to help ? "
It wasn't difficult for Hollis to put himself in the po-
sitlon of one of those Negroes who had a chance at a
job. Thinking about the shacks, he could imagine the
joy and hope that must have come to those who were
being given the chance to work. It meant a chance for
a better life, a chance to rise out of the unsanitary-
hovels Into which they had been thrust. And Hollis
could imagine how they would feel when they were
driven from the factory gates by white men with clubs
and guns. How would they feel when they knew their
brothers were dying on the battlefields to save both
whites and blacks ?
They needed the chance to work. The nation
needed their hands, and they needed work that would
make men out of them — men who were doing a needed
job, men who were being given the chance of a lifetime
to prove that they could work well, that they did want
the better things in life, and that they could earn their
right to a better life by the sweat of their brows. There
was just so much kicking around a person or race could
take without rebelling against injustice. Hollis knew
from Freddy's words that the Negroes would not give
up this chance.
" The union has already issued a statement that it Is
in favor of giving jobs to Negroes," said Jerry. " And
the company has made It clear they will do it. But there
will be men with union buttons in the mob that's being
"What definite Information do you have?" Gabby
asked Freddy. " Maybe we can do something."
" There's a meeting tonight in the park. I've heard
what the plan is. They plan to bar the employment of-
fice to all Negroes." Freddy's face was grim. ** But if
I know my people, they'll be there. We've got a right
to work. No one has the right to deny us that chance.
We can't give up now."
" Maybe we could organize a group of white work-
ers who would help get the Negroes through," Gabby
" That's not the answer," said Freddy, shaking his
head. " Fighting isn't the answer to this question.
There's too much bad blood now. We've got to go
down by ourselves. And if we're protected, it's got to
be legal protection. But the answer is to do away with
the ignorance and prejudices. That can't be done over-
Jerry stood up. " Come on," he said to Hollis and
Gabby. '' We're going to that meeting. It won't hurt
us to know what they plan to do."
Freddy saw them to the door. *' Be careful," he
warned. " You're known to that bunch, and they don't
like you any more than they like us."
The three walked through another part of the Negro
section to get to the park. Hollis saw that the Negroes
who watched them pass were watching suspiciously.
They probably thought they were among those who
didn't want them to have jobs.
Resentment was at fever pitch, and the subversive
agitators were making the most of it. As Hollis ap-
proached the park, he saw that several hundred men
were already there.
A large bonfire was already burning, its red glow
providing the ominous light for the meeting. The si-
lent crowd of men who came to listen merged with the
blackness of the night to make up the terrifying, shape-
less form of that monster the Mob.
Hollis, with Jerry and Gabby, found places in the
deep shadows that gave them a view of the scene. Two
or three men were feeding the fire. Standing apart in
a small group were ten other men who seemed to be
leaders. Behind them was a giant crude effigy of a
Negro that was being soaked with kerosene for later
burning. Farther away, held by another shadowy fig-
ure, the American flag waved from a standard.
Hollis saw this and felt the impulse to run and tear
the flag from his hands. To see such a gathering try
to cloak itself with the protecting folds of the
symbol of free America was maddening, even to a
One of the leaders stepped forward and held up his
hands for silence. Silence came, grim, terrifying, and
heavy with the feeling of violence.
In a mob the individual can be carried away by the
mass hysteria that comes over him. He can be violent
and lawless, feeling safe, because around him there are
hundreds of others doing the same thing. Protected by
this feeling, he loses himself as an individual and be-
comes a violent cog in a destructive machine.
That was hatred and violence in Motor City. It too
had to be on a mass-production basis. Men fought and
destroyed together, as though on the assembly line.
There lay the danger in mobs. There lay the seeds
that sprouted into crimes that a man alone would not
think about, much less commit. But as a member of the
mob, he thinks with the mob mind. The leader is the
power switch, and the mob is the machine.
A man began to speak. As he did so, the figure be-
hind him was suddenly set aflame. It burned luridly
against the black night, and the speaker's features were
hidden in shadows.
The speaker's voice was powerful. In this strange,
eerie scene, it spread the easy drug of hatred. HoUis
" Fellow white Americans I
" This country was founded by white Americans for
\yhite Americans. It should and must be run for white
Americans. Our Government has been captured by the
Jews, the Niggers, and the Communists. Americans
have been driven out, and foreigners are in control.
That's the cause of our troubles. Real Americans can't
afford decent places to live because Niggers get fancy
" Our Communist-Jew Government has gotten us in
the war to kill off the real Americans. Save the world
for the Jews and Niggers, while they get rich at home.
That's what it amounts to.
" Are you going to let them put the Niggers in jobs
that ought to go to real Americans? "
The speaker halted. A few " No I No I " cries
sounded from different parts of the audience. The
word was repeated, taken up by others. It rose from a
cry to a shout, and from a shout to a roar — a roar like
that of savage beasts gone mad.
The very night shrank from the fury of the blind
" TheyVe got stooges in the crowd," Jerry yelled
Into Hollis' ear. '' They start yelling when the speaker
gives the cue. But it looks spontaneous."
The speaker was going again. It seemed to Hollis
that he had heard that voice before. He felt sure that
if he caught one glimpse of the speaker^s face, it would
be one that he knew.
" We'll be here tomorrow," the speaker shouted
hoarsely. " We'll be here with clubs to see that no
Niggers get any jobs ! "
The roar of the crowd rose higher, and fiercer. They
were howling for blood now. All the men who had
been beaten down all their lives, all the little men who
had been kicked around from job to job, given low
wages, forced into poverty, all these little men found
somebody to hate. Somebody they could attack. Some-
body they could blame for their ills.
It was easy that way. If you blame the big companies
for throwing you out of work, all you can do is grumble.
If you blame Wall Street, Wall Street is far away, and
is a street, not a person. If you blame the Government,
you can vote against it, and still not have a job. You
can blame them all, and not have anything to show for it.
But if someone with a poison tongue tells you to hate
the Negroes, or the Jews, or the Greeks, you can do
something about that. If somebody tells you they are
the ones who are responsible for your bad fate, you
can attack them.
If you stop to think that Greeks and Czechs and Jews
and Catholics and Negroes are just poor people like
you are, and in the same boat, you will know they weren't
responsible for your troubles any more than you are
responsible for theirs. You will laugh it off.
But if you stand hypnotized by bonfires and oratory
and let the mob mind do its twisted thinking for you,
you can believe it. You can believe that your neighbors
with accents or dark skins are the cause of your troubles.
And you can attack them.
You can join the mob, grab a club, and attack them.
You can forget your own helplessness against the mass
world by wrecking the home of someone weaker than
you are. You can fool yourself into thinking you are
strong by hating the weakest, and attacking the defense-
less. You can even maim and loot and burn, and do it
in the name of your country.
That's what was happening in the park now. In the
land of the free, men who hated freedom were spurring
one part of the population to war on the other, to split
the country into a hundred weak fragments that would
destroy it physically and morally. And because it was
the land of the free, a handful of police hung around
in the shadows — to protect the speakers.
Then, in a flash, HoUis realized who the speaker was.
He turned to Jerry, hardly knowing that he spoke.
" That's Latrim speaking," HoUis shouted angrily.
He shouted — and shouted during a lull that picked
up his voice and shattered the silence. Every head
turned toward Hollis, craning to see him.
A shrill voice that Hollis recognized as belonging to
Pete Eritt shrieked out to the crowd. ** There's a Red
spy. Get him I "
It was the spark that exploded the crazed mob into
action. Screaming their hatred, they pushed and shoved
in an effort to claw at Hollis and his friends and drag
them down to earth.
The crowd smelled blood. All restraint was gone
in that moment of motion. A thousand violent cries
rent the night.
"Kill him I"
"Lynch him I"
" String him up I *'
Hollis backed away from the nearest of his attackers,
swinging his big fists to good advantage. "Run!"
Jerry cried. " Run, Hollis ! "
Hollis knocked aside a hand that reached for his
throat. He turned and darted away in the darkness,
close on the heels of Gabby and Jerry.
Behind, the mob took up the chase in full cry. The
night was dotted with the flare of torches as the shout-
ing, yelling mass swept forward in angry pursuit.
MOLLIS MACEACHRON RAN FOR HIS LIFE. RAN
through the night-blackened streets knowing that if he
faltered he would be pulled down and torn to pieces.
The mob came after him, hungry torches aloft. Hol-
lis put every ounce of energy into his running, but it
seemed that he moved slowly. He imagined his pur-
suers were closing in on his heels — their shouts sounded
louder and angrier.
Running abreast with Gabby and Jerry, Hollis
pounded away, heading into the twisted, narrow streets
that offered the only chance of a hiding place.
Their flying feet sounded the alarm. As they swept
past, startled Negro families, hearing the mob and see-
ing the advancing torches, hastily jumped up and dis-
appeared in the night, crying out to their families to
run and hide.
The Terror swept into the Negro district. Once
there, it found victims in the old shacks and the run-
down stores. Its progress was marked by the crash of
breaking windows and the screams of those who were
caught in the whirlpool of violence.
The mob had started after Hollls, but no mob is satis-
fied with one victim. Mass violence demands mass vic-
tims. The resentments and hatreds of hundreds cannot
be slaked by one small sacrifice, not when each feels the
need to inflict injury and damage. The woods were full
of hares, and the dogs ran wild.
They went about their business of saving America
by burning the old houses and beating those inhabitants
who were too slow in getting away.
Drunk with early success, and lighted by the flames
of homes that had been put to the torch, the mob split
up, flowing down different streets, breaking down doors,
smashing furniture, and looting the few pitiful items of
value that remained in their path.
The spearhead of the mob, with Pete Eritt in the
lead, kept after Hollis, Jerry, and Gabby. Beating Ne-
groes and smashing windows might satisfy the main
body of the mob, but Pete and his followers had a more
definite mission. Hollis was a threat to their union
power, and here, in the darkness, under the cloak of
mass violence, he might be caught and disposed of.
Even as he shouted the mob on, Pete planned ahead.
When Hollis was found next day, the whole thing could
be blamed on the Negroes. The papers would assume
that he had been part of the mob. Pete laughed aloud.
Hollis could become a symbol for revenge against the
Negroes. Avenge Hollis I could be the slogan — and
the Negroes would suffer.
Hollis and his friends pulled up for a moment at the
end of an alley. There were several crooked streets
that led away from it.
" Let's separate," panted Jerry. '' We stand a bet-
ter chance that way."
HoUis nodded in the darkness, breathing heavily.
Gabby was breathing hard, almost sobbing. Behind
them the glare of burning houses lit up the sky. In the
far distance, the wail of approaching fire engines
shrieked disaster. Gabby suddenly darted down one of
the streets, wings of fear speeding him along despite his
A quick figure, slipping from shadow to shadow
called out in an uncertain voice, " Jerry Landis? Hol-
They turned quickly. The caller was about to
" That's us," said Jerry.
The figure beckoned to them. " Come with me.
Freddy Brown sent me."
They joined the man. He was a slightly built Negro,
his face tense and filled with fear. " Follow me," he
said huskily, setting off.
They followed him in a devious, twisting course.
Down an alley they went, and then, bent low, stumbling
through back yards, falling over boxes, fighting their
way through piled junk and litter.
As they ran, they were aware of other fleeing figures
racing through the night, going by silently, looking back
over their shoulders.
Their guide went forward with certain steadiness, as
though he had traveled that route many times. They
began bumping into junk iron. Hollis banged his knees
against pieces of rusty machinery. He was still lost,
^ 175 ^
but the sounds of the mob had fallen behind and could
be heard only faintly.
In the middle of this waste of discarded machinery
and metal, their guide stopped. He looked cautiously
around, then called softly, " Freddy Brown? "
*' That you. Will?'*
** Two white boys with me."
They heard the sound of a moving body near them,
and soon the powerful form of Freddy Brown was sil-
houetted against the sky.
"Who's missing? " he asked first, sliding down by
" Gabby," said Jerry. " He went off alone."
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Freddy
chuckled. " That boy's really fast. They'll never catch
him. He outran a mounted cop once a few years
"How'd you know where to find us? " Hollis asked
in the darkness. " Did you send Will out? "
Freddy made a soft sound with his mouth. " I been
through all this before," he said wearily. " In the
South too. I figured you might be recognized by some
spy, so after you left, I sent Will along to keep an eye
" I woulda got you sooner," said Will, " but when
that mob started, I started too. Just couldn't help run-
nin'. Then I stopped and went back."
Hollis found Will's hand and shook it. " Thanks,"
he said. Hollis knew the risk Will had run by heading
back toward the mob. But he had done it. Done it for
three white men while a hundred other whites were
burning his home to the ground.
*' We're safe here," said Freddy. '' We've always
kept an eye on this place. Mobs are cowards, and they
won't come here because we've got an even chance
against them. We'll all stay here till morning, then we
can go back — if there's anything to go back to."
" Latrim was leading that thing," said Hollis. " I'm
sure I recognized his voice."
*' See his face?"
*' You can't prove It, Hollis."
** But I know It was Latrim," protested Hollis.
** So do I. So do a lot of people. But how could we
" What's he doing In the union If he feels like that? "
" All kinds of people in the union," said Freddy philo-
sophically. " Good and bad. Just like any other organ-
ization. He's got his reasons; we've got ours."
" He's a native Fascist," said Jerry. " He's after
power In the union, so he can use it for his own ends —
and the ends of the people higher up than he is."
*' Why Isn't he kicked out?" Hollis demanded.
" Does Roy Walters know about him? "
*' Probably. But Roy is hampered by union politics
too. Until we can get rid of the Latrim machine In our
union, we can't give Walters the support he needs to
carry on his fight against the big union men who are be-
Hollis settled himself as comfortably as he could, pre-
pared to spend the night in the open. He couldn't be-
lieve that this was America. It just didn't happen in
America — that men had to hide like hunted animals
from the violence of other men. It was something out
of the barbaric past. It didn't jibe with the words, " All
men are created equal."
When men are equals they don't have to stand by and
see their homes burned. Equal men aren't hunted with
clubs. " Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness "
didn't add anything about the right to organize mobs to
terrorize other Americans, or divide the country into
groups of ** real " and synthetic Americans.
The Devil could do more than quote the Scriptures.
He was equally adept at mouthing the Constitution and
waving the flag.
Hollis slept, uncomfortable as he was. Shortly be-
fore dawn, when the night was pale and thin, he woke
to find Jerry, his face drawn and haggard, still sitting
awake. Freddy was asleep with his head between his
As the day came on and Hollis could see farther away,
his eyes took in a scene that he would never forget. The
cover of night drew back to disclose a mammoth waste-
land of ruined machines and piles of rusty junk. In this
harsh wilderness of dead machines, thousands of people
huddled for safety.
Hollis saw them stretched on the ground or crouched
in tense positions, dozing from sheer weariness. Here
and there one who couldn't sleep stared in the direction
of home, where ugly black smoke still lifted toward the
Hollls' clothes were wet with the dew that covered
men and metal. He was cold, and hungry. There was
an emptiness in his stomach, and in his heart. He saw
junk. Junk machines and junk humans cast on the same
wasteland. And he, HoUis MacEachron, with his tou-
sled blond hair and rugged face — with only twenty
years behind him, and a hfetime ahead — was in the
middle of the heap.
Hollis looked down into Jerry's eyes. " Let's go
home," he said. He looked down at himself. His suit
was wrinkled and torn, smeared with mud and rust.
His shirt was filthy. Jerry was the same way, his neat
summer outfit hanging in a shapeless mass.
Jerry reached down beside him and rescued what was
left of a straw hat. He flipped it on his head and got
to his feet, groaning. " O. K. Let's go."
Hollis shook Freddy lightly. Freddy's eyes opened.
'* We're going home, Freddy. Got to change clothes
Freddy got up and looked around. Already, little
streams of people were heading back to where their
houses used to be, hoping they still stood. Those who
saw Jerry and Hollis exchanged glances and talked in
Freddy sighed. " See you at work, Hollis." He
turned and picked his way across the field of junk.
Hollis and Jerry headed in the direction of home.
As they walked, the sun came up. It was blazing with
strength, flooding the world with brilliant Hght. It rose
higher and higher, pointing with burning fingers at the
evil the night had done.
The newsboys were already on the streets, shouting
their latest sensation. Hollls bought a paper. The
stark headlines cried havoc in heavy black letters :
Many Injured as Mob
Invades Negro District
Job Dispute Taken
as Reason for Violence
HoUis read the lead story quickly. " For once the
union isn't blamed for the trouble/* he commented with
" What do you know I " said Jerry. *' Maybe that
rag is undergoing a change of heart since we won recog-
nition. Look at the editorial page."
Hollls turned to the inside pages. " Special edito-
rial," he said. *' Written on the spot." He whistled.
" Boy, they're sure socking away at the thing. Calling
for the leaders of the mob to be brought to justice."
" By whom? " asked Jerry sarcastically. " Freddy
was right about not having any proof."
*' I saw Pete Eritt there."
** And he saw you there. So what ? "
Hollls saw where he was licked. *' What do you
think will be done? "
" I mean about the jobs."
Jerry snorted. " Probably have a big political bat-
" Guess youVe right," Hollis admitted. " The paper
says there's going to be an investigation. Both sides
demand a chance to be heard."
" Too bad the union can't do anything."
** Why can't it?"
" With Latrim in control ? He's hoping for a chance
to split the union wide open on a question like this.
For the time being we'll just have to work unofficially."
Mrs. Billings was waiting for them at the door when
they got home. She breathed a great sigh of relief
when she saw them. *' Gabby got home alone last night
and told me everything/' she said. '* I've worried about
you ever since."
" I'm glad to hear Gabby made it," HoUis said. *' We
were worried about him too."
" Sit down and have something to eat, right now,'*
Mrs. Billings Insisted. " You still have to work today,
and you've just about time to change your clothes and
At the factory, Freddy was at his place as usual when
Hollis came in. Hollis noticed a cut under Freddy's
left eye. Hollis questioned with his eyes.
" Little run-in with some boys who didn't know the
fun was over," said Freddy. " They won't work to-
" Much damage? " Hollis asked, cradling his speed
wrench in his arms.
" Enough. Fire department couldn't do much be-
cause there aren't enough hydrants in our district. My
place came through with only a few busted windows."
" Will you have to pay for fixing them? "
"What do you think?"
" Foolish question,*' said Hollls.
The power came on and the assembly line started
clanking Its monotonous tune.
" If It was spring," said Freddy, " I'd let 'em go for
a while. But with winter coming on — "
The differentials claimed their full attention. The
line was moving fast.
Hollls' supporters were hard at work trying to swing
votes his way. He knew he had the support of the Ne-
gro workers In his department. He also had the sup-
port of those who saw through Latrim and were ready
to try to unseat him. They listened to the story of how
Latrim was Intending to discredit Hollls and promised
Hollls their vote.
But the In-betweens just listened, saying nothing.
They were waiting.
On the night of the election, the hall was packed with
men. Although the posts were minor ones, It was the
first test of strength between Latrim and the opposi-
tion. The feeling of that Impending struggle was In the
The routine business of the meeting was soon over
with. Latrim sat up front, on the platform, an un-
llghted cigar clamped between his teeth. He was the
picture of powerful confidence, even giving the appear-
ance of blustering good cheer.
If he knew of the campaign against him, he gave no
sign. He draped his arm around the back of Freddy's
chair In a friendly manner.
His actions were having their effect. Hollls felt men
looking at him in a questioning way. They were won-
dering If he was right in what he had said about La-
trim. It began to appear that Hollis was embarked on
an underhanded campaign to defeat Latrim, the big,
Then came nominations.
Latrim's faction got off to a flying start by nominat-
ing Pete Eritt. As soon as that nomination was made
and seconded, another Latrim man took the floor for a
nomination, naming a second Latrim candidate.
HoHIs was the third on the list, since Jerry was on
his feet to make the nomination before the second man
A quick motion from the back of the hall to cease
nominations was made, and the motion was carried.
Hollis was up against two machine men. One of the
three would be elected.
Then the usual discussion took place before the ac-
tual elections. Men took the floor to support one or an-
other of the candidates. Hollis* supporters were doing
a good job, and as yet no direct attacks had been made
Then Latrim asked for the floor.
" 1 don't wish to Interfere with the Internal affairs of
this local,*' he said grandly, " but when the integrity of
the union Is at stake, I cannot, I will not be still.
" We have Brother MacEachron running for office
In our organization. Before you pass judgment on his
fitness by considering him as worthy of your vote, I feel
it my duty to reveal several facts to you. When I am
through. Brother MacEachron, I will ask you to point
to any statement I may make that is untrue.
" Union Brothers, Brother MacEachron did not get
his job at Vanguard by ordinary means. He was re-
cruited from the country to come here by — Jason
D. Franks, the worst enemy of our union in Motor
"Further: Brother MacEachron was assigned to
headlight assembly. But after a talk with the VSP, he
was changed immediately to work next to our local
leader, Freddy Brown. The VSP put him there to spy
on Freddy. That^s all I have to say. Brothers. Can
you deny these facts. Brother MacEachron? '*
Latrim ended his speech in an accusing thunder, point-
ing his finger dramatically at Hollis.
Hollis was literally rushed off his feet. How did La-
trim find out about the VSP? Nobody had known
about that but Jerry, Gabby, and Harry, and they cer-
tainly would not have talked.
Had Hollis been wiser in organizational ways, he
might have had the presence of mind to ask Latrim
where he got his information and for proof.
But Hollis was still a babe in arms when it came to
playing politics. All he knew was to give an honest an-
swer, hoping to be heard. But as he stood up, he no-
ticed that even Freddy Brown was looking at him with
Hollis told how he had gotten his job, and how the
VSP had mistaken him for a spy. He was heard through
in silence — in a cold, unbelieving silence that almost
froze the words to his lips. When he was through, he
sat down. There was nothing else left to do.
Latrim was on his feet in a moment. *' Everybody
who believes that story," he said mockingly, " is in-
vited to vote for Brother MacEachron."
A wave of laughter greeted his remark. Latrim was
riding firmly in the driver's seat again.
The second man nominated withdrew his nomina-
tion. It was now a fight between Hollis and Pete Eritt.
It was a fight, Hollis knew, that was already won by
Latrim. Hollis stayed to see himself go down in ig-
nominious defeat. But, more than a personal defeat,
it was a defeat for his ideas. Latrim's idea of industrial
warfare was the one to which the men listened.
Final proof to Hollis of his defeat was a motion,
made by one of Latrim's henchmen, to suspend Hollis
from membership and investigate his activities.
The motion to suspend him was finally amended to
include only an investigation, but it was passed. The in-
vestigating committee was elected. It was made up
of three Latrim men.
When Hollis left, at the end of the meeting, many
men who used to speak to him conveniently turned away
as he passed.
Jerry and Gabby walked home with Hollis. It heart-
ened him to think that they still believed in him.
"Oh, brother! " moaned Gabby. " Did we take a
shellacking ! "
*' Don't talk about it," said Jerry.
" We've got to," said HoUis. *' I want to know
where Latrim found out about my session with the
" That's right," Gabby said. " Where did he find
A new light came into Jerry's eyes. His face seemed
to grow rounder as new hope surged in him. " Maybe
we aren't licked at that," he said, pounding a fist into
an open palm. " Maybe that's our big lead."
*' How will we find out? " Gabby was pessimistic.
" Ask if we can read his mail and listen to his telephone
" We can watch for breaks," said HoUis. " That's
how he got us. We can keep our eyes open. He's
bound to make a slip sometime."
But if Hollis thought he was the only one planning
an offensive, he found out differently the following
morning. Latrim had him off balance and was deter-
mined to keep him that way. When Hollis arrived at
his place on the assembly line, he found a card on his
wrench. It was a crude drawing of a rat, with his name
lettered beneath it,
Hollis crumpled the card angrily In his hand. He
looked around, as though he expected to see the person
who had put it there.
Hollis looked at Freddy. " It was here when I came
in," said Freddy.
" You don't believe what Latrim said, do you? "
Freddy sighed. *' I don't want to. I know what he
is. But you've seen what can happen to Negroes. Hol-
lis, right now I don't trust anybody. Just myself."
At noon, Hollis found that he and Jerry were shunned
by the other men.
*' They're talking strike," said Jerry.
** For when?"
" Soon, probably."
"What's the idea?"
** You mean who's the idea. Latrim's got it all
worked out. Figures with defense orders and lend-
lease coming in fast, it's a good time to shut down."
*' Good time for Hitler," said HoUis bitterly.
" There go all your nice ideas about co-operation,"
" Looks that way. I'll keep trying though."
" Then you'll surely look like a company man."
" I don't care. A strike isn't the answer now. If we
could only get the company to meet with us."
"With Latrim? He'd threaten, they'd threaten,
and it would be worse than before."
Hollis clenched his hands. " If they could only see,"
he muttered. " If both sides could only see that the
time is past for table-thumping and goon squads. This
can't be the end — the last answer."
The signal sounded that sent them back to their ma-
" It's the last answer now," said Jerry. " What can
Hollis went back to his wrench. That's the way it al-
ways was. You could get so far, and then problems
got bigger than you were. It was the same in the union
as it was in industry. Above Latrim were other figures,
looming large and powerful. It didn't matter what the
individual thought or tried to do. If he bucked the ma-
chine he was in the same position as bucking the assem-
bly line, and mass production. He was pushed out of
the way, and ground down.
They were two machines. But why couldn't ma-
chines work for the good as well as the bad? Mass
production in itself wasn't evil. The products that
came off the hne went to make life better and easier for
the consumers. And in times of crisis, when sedans be-
came jeeps, the country depended on mass production
to keep it strong in the field.
And the union. Why couldn't that be a better organ-
ization? Why couldn't union machinery work without
Latrim and his ilk ? Why did the two machines — mass
production and mass men — have to be fighting, when
. each depended on the other for existence? Machines
needed men. Men needed machines. Why should they
be at war?
It didn't make sense. It only made sense if you de-
cided that both machines were in control of men who
had built them and didn't understand them. Industry
feared, but didn't understand, the problems of having
mass labor. Labor hated the machines it kept alive, and
the men who owned those machines.
So they fought each other for power. Only the men
at the top didn't suffer. They didn't go hungry or get
hurt. They directed. They decided the fate of all the
little people who needed some place for their trust and
some bank for their human hopes.
Hollis could see it so clearly. It was as though two
knights in armor were spurring at each other full tilt.
Caught between their spears, impaled on both points,
he saw the overalled figure of a worker. First the
worker was destroyed, and then the knights — and
then there was nothing.
HolHs picked up his wrench. The card with the rat
on it was there again. He tore this one up slowly. It
didn't anger him. What good would it do to fight with
Before the power was turned on, Bill came up.
" I'm to take over your wrench, Hollis," he said un-
easily. " Super wants to see you."
Hollis went back to see Jim Stoner, the super. Stoner
didn't look directly at him. " I've a new job for you,
MacEachron," he said in clipped tones. " Sweeping up.
You start this afternoon. You're to keep things in
shape and watch for loose ends. That's all."
*' But — " Hollis started to protest.
" That's all," said Stoner. " Unless you want to
Hollis nodded. This was probably another of La-
trim's tricks. Something to expose Hollis to the taunts
of all the workers in the department. Well, if Latrim
thought Hollis could be driven out that way, he had an-
other thought coming. " I'll take it," said Hollis.
" Where's my broom? "
Hollis swept. He went up and down between the
rows of machines sweeping away the dirt of their work.
HolHs MacEachron, mechanic, in Motor City to build
cars. HolHs MacEachron, with a kit full of tools under
his bed. Hollis MacEachron, the rube from the coun-
try who was going to save Motor City from industrial
warfare. Hollis MacEachron, broom pusher.
Hollis walked home alone after work. He didn't
feel he had the right to walk with men who ran the ma-
chines. Not Hollis MacEachron, mechanic.
He was the first one there. He stopped to look at
the mail on the table. There was a letter addressed to
him. The return address was Vanguard Motors. Hol-
lis slit open the envelope. It was from Jason Franks.
It asked him to stop in at Franks's office on Friday aft-
Hollis put the letter in his pocket and went up to wash.
What did Franks want with him?
HOLLIS SAT DOWN ON THE EDGE OF HIS BED. HIS FOOT
kicked against the metal tool kit that he kept under-
neath. He grinned sourly. Tool kit 1 A broom closet
was what he needed.
For the first time, Hollis thought about leaving Mo-
tor City. He wouldn't go back to Holden. He'd shoul-
der his kit and look for other work. There must be
some factory that could use him, some shop that needed
But these thoughts didn't satisfy him. He couldn't
leave the field clear to Latrim. He couldn't run out
on the problems that surrounded him. It wasn't his
The assembly line was beginning to get in his blood.
Hollis thought of working without the clank of heavy
machinery and the whir of wrenches. It was hard to
imagine. No, he'd hang on. He remembered his last
talk with Mr. Small, in Holden. The minister's words
came back to him: *' ' For what shall it profit a man, if
he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? ' "
Maybe he would find a new job. But that could never
wipe out the fact that he had run out on a tough situa-
tion. It would mean that Hollis MacEachron, worker,
dreamer, fighter for the right, had taken his first step
toward becoming a quitter. Hollis decided to fight it
He heard the familiar sound of Jerry's feet coming
up the stairs. A moment later Jerry pushed the door
open. His face was troubled.
Hollis forgot his own worries for the moment. He
waited for Jerry to speak.
Jerry sat down by him on the bed. " Heard the bad
" That's all I've been hearing lately," said HoUis.
" Which bad news do you mean? "
" The union meeting."
*' What one?"
*' The one Latrim has called for Friday afternoon."
" Let me get this straight," said Hollis. " You mean
we're having a union meeting tomorrow afternoon? "
"How come? Regular meeting isn't until next
" Latrim's got enough stooges on the Executive Com-
mittee to get through a call for a special meeting."
" But why ? And why haven't we been told ? "
" It's some scheme of Latrim's," said Jerry. '* It's
an old trick. He's calling a special meeting to push
through some piece of dirty work. He sees to it that
all his gang will be on hand. We're not supposed to
know about it, but to make It look legal we'll probably
get our notices Saturday morning. He can always say
he sent them out, and it wasn't his fault if we got them
''What can we do?"
*' We can go," said Jerry, " and try to round up all
the men we can count on and try to get them there. But
I know we don't stand a chance. Whatever it is, La-
trim will have it packed enough to win his point."
" What do you think his point is? "
Jerry shrugged. " Who knows? Maybe something
to get you out of the union. Might be anything."
*' I'd like to be there," said HoUis grimly.
" Like to ! " exploded Jerry. " You've got to."
HoUis shook his head. " Can't. Got another en-
*' What's so important? " Jerry questioned. " This
might mean your job."
" So might the other," said Hollis. He took out his
letter from Franks and showed it to Jerry. " What do
you make of that? "
Jerry read It through. " I don't know. But don't go
showing this around. And don't let anyone see you
with Franks. If that happened, you'd be out of the
union so fast you'd never know what hit you."
" You're the only one to know," said Hollis. " I
wonder what he wants? "
" Maybe his car broke down again," grinned Jerry.
" Or else his tires are worn out and he figures you might
know where he could get a new set."
" How many of our fellows do you think you can get
to the meeting? " Hollls asked, becoming serious.
" Not enough," said Jerry dourly. *' At least we can
see what's going on."
** I'll keep my fingers crossed," said Hollis.
" Wish you could be there," said Jerry. " At least
you could put up a fight for yourself."
*' Don't worry about that. I'll carry it higher If they
try to force me out. So don't you get out on a limb on
"I won't," promised Jerry. Hollls believed him,
and was glad. Jerry was too old a hand to tilt against
windmills. He'd fight when there was a chance, but he
also knew enough not to be rash.
On Friday afternoon Hollis, dressed In his best suit
of clothes, went to see Jason Franks.
He waited In the outer oflice, perched uneasily on
the edge of a luxurious leather couch. He was nervous
and tense at the prospect of sitting across from Franks.
And he was worried about the special union meeting
that was going on.
Hollls thought back to the rainy night when he had
first met Franks — the night that had turned his life up-
side down. He hadn't been nervous then. He had
stood up to Franks as an equal, as an Independent hu-
man being, to whom the rank and position of others
Now It was different. He was coming to see the
Boss. He was coming to see the man who had complete
control over his job. The man who, with a stroke of
his pen, could banish any one or more of thousands of
men to the realm of unemployment. His whim could
mean the difference between security and nothing for
any man in the plant.
HoUis felt this new relationship keenly. It put him
at a disadvantage, and he didn't like it. He re-
solved not to let it make any difference in the way he
spoke to Franks. Job or no job, he wouldn't bow his
The girl at the reception desk answered the summons
of a well-mannered buzzer. " Mr. Franks will see you
now," she said.
Hollis got up and walked stiffly through the door,
treading uneasily on thick, soft carpets. Inside, seated
behind a giant modernistic desk sat Jason D. Franks,
his well-groomed white head bent over some papers.
Hollis stood in front of the desk, momentarily awed
at the magnificence of this managerial sanctum. It was
not gaudy, but the very simplicity of the place seemed
to shout wealth and power.
Franks looked up from his papers. He stood up and
offered his hand to Hollis, smiling.
" Sit down," he said, pointing to a chair. He opened
a sleek box. "Cigar?"
" No thank you."
Franks opened another box. " Cigarette, perhaps ? "
*' No, sir, I don't smoke."
Franks selected a cigar. " Nasty habit," he said,
lighting a cigar. He leaned back and looked at Hollis
through a cloud of blue smoke.
*' You're thinner, Hollis," he said. "Paler too.
Big-city temptations — hard to resist, aren't they, Hol-
^ 195 ^
lis ? But then you're only young once, and youth won't
'' There isn't much sunlight on the assembly line,"
said Hollis, putting an end to that line of conversation.
He was still worrying about that union meeting. If all
Franks wanted to do was chat, that could be put off, and
he could still get to the meeting. If there was anything
important on Franks's mind, he hoped they would soon
get down to business.
Franks seemed to read Hollis' mind. He cleared his
throat and asked, " I suppose you wonder why I called
Hollis nodded silently.
Franks scanned a sheet of paper for a moment. " I
understand the union is trying to expel you," he said
suddenly, looking straight at Hollis.
Every fiber of Hollis' being went on guard. " You
know a great deal about me," he said without emotion.
" I didn't know Vanguard was interested in my personal
Franks smiled. " It's not just you, Hollis. A com-
pany the size of ours cannot afford to disregard the ac-
tivities of its employees. It is vital that we know what
they are thinking and doing. Don't you agree? " He
looked at Hollis questioningly.
What was he driving at? Hollis wondered. Why
didn't he come to the point?
Franks said, *' I understand you are accused of work-
ing in the interests of the company and against the
" That's the charge," said Hollis.
*' Is It true?"
*' Would you like to make it come true? "
Hollls flushed angrily. " Are you suggesting I be-
come a company spy? " he demanded, forgetting that
Franks held supreme power over his job.
" * Spy ' is a harsh word," said Franks softly. " Let
us say your function would be to present the company's
point of view to the men. It's no more than fair that
they should hear our point of view."
The resentment that had been boiling inside Hollls
finally boiled over. Resentment against the company,
the union, his change In jobs, and the way things were
run in general. For all he knew he had already been
kicked out of the union. What matter if he also had
the company against him? At least he could get a few
things off his chest.
*' I'm sick and tired of hearing about sides," Hollls
bawled out stridently.
Franks held up his hands in a gesture that demanded
silence. " Gently, gently," he said. " There's no rea-
son to raise our voices."
" There's good reason," said Hollls forcefully.
" The trouble with you is that you sit in this fine quiet
office all day long and don't even know what's going on
under your very nose."
Franks drew his heavy eyebrows together. '' I don't
relish being talked to like this In my office," he warned
sharply, banging the desk with his fist.
"You called me here," said Hollls, his voice tense
with emotion. " And while I'm here you'll listen. If
you're thinking of firing me, I quit. If you're going to
have me thrown out, go ahead and ring for your thugs.
I'll have time to say a few things before they get here."
To Hollis' surprise, Franks did neither. Instead, he
leaned back In his leather-padded swivel chair and
" All right, Hollis. If you're that determined, go
ahead and talk. What have you got to say? "
It was HoUis' big chance. A chance he had often
dreamed about, but never thought would ever happen.
Man to man, he would be able to talk to Franks, to ex-
plain the union, perhaps —
" Mr. Franks," Hollis said seriously and directly, " I
think you and Vanguard have the wrong idea about the
" That's a complimentary start," said Franks wryly.
" It Isn't the kind of thing that can be handled by
spies," said Hollis.
*' They serve their purpose," said Franks. " If it
weren't for the outside agitators and radicals we
wouldn't need spies or the VSP. But fire has to be
fought with fire. This is no tea party, MacEachron."
" I know," said Hollis wearily. " It's war. That's
exactly what Latrim says."
*' The union leader? "
" You see," said Franks triumphantly. " We can't
afford to have a man like that control the workers in
our plant. He's out to wreck us. Paralyze our plant
with strikes, and bring us to our knees. We won't take
that without a fight."
" Latrim isn't the union," said Hollis. " The union
isn't made up of outsiders, agitators, or radicals. It's
made up of the thousands of men who work right here at
Vanguard. They're good, honest men who are asking
for a chance to be heard. Why shouldn't they be organ-
ized ? Everything else around here is. The factory ma-
chinery is organized, production is organized, the own-
ers are organized. Why shouldn't the workers be
" I met with a committee yesterday," said Franks.
" They represented your department. They wanted
certain changes made. They didn't come here to dis-
cuss those changes. They demanded them. When I
explained that they couldn't be made at this time owing
to war conditions, they threatened the company with a
strike. Hollis, I can't deal with any organization that
does that. The law says I have to meet with them. It
doesn't say I have to give in to their threats."
Hollis spent the next few minutes explaining the dif-
ference between good unionism and that represented by
Latrim. He pointed out that the committee Franks
had dealt with were Latrim men. " We're trying to
clean them out./' said Hollis. " That's why they're out
to get me."
*' Our negotiating committee is to meet with one from
the union," said Franks, " to discuss matters affecting
the thousands of workers in our plant. If the experi-
ences I have had are any indication of the way the union
operates, I don't think we'll get very far."
" Vanguard hasn't got the cleanest hands in the
world I" said Hollis sharply. ''The whole company
spy system, for instance. And this business of stirring
up race hatred in order to prevent the men from organ-
izing. Maybe if Vanguard doesn't try to act so high
and mighty, the union will be easier to get along with.
I've heard about Roy Walters, although I've never met
him. From what I know, you'll be able to talk to him.
And he'll talk to Vanguard, in spite of the fact that the
last time he was at the plant he was beaten up by the
" I'm all for labor peace," said Franks. '' Since the
war, the Government has been putting pressure on us
to get these matters settled. I think our committee will
be in a good frame of mind, Hollis, as long as there
isn't any trouble. If we have flare-ups now, they'll be
pretty tough for the union to bargain with."
** There won't be any trouble," said Hollis. " After
all, we want this war to be won quickly. We know
we've got a big responsibility. But one of the things
we're fighting for is a better deal for the little guys.
We know what to expect if we lose. There won't be
" Good," said Franks. " After all, Hollis, I work
for Vanguard, just as you do, even if I have a big name
and a big salary. They can get rid of me whenever they
want to. My job is to carry out company policy, not
make it. That isn't always easy. But if we pull to-
gether, I don't see any reason why we can't get together
with the union and settle the whole question peace-
HoUis got up and went to the door. He opened his
mouth to say good-by, when the phone rang. Franks
^ 200 ^
walked back to his desk and picked It up. As he listened,
his face became grim. He hung up and turned to Hol-
lis. '* Your local/' he said harshly, *' has just voted to
call a strike for Monday morning."
Hollls was stunned. His dream came crashing down
over his head like the blow of a club. Strike I Of all
the fool things. Just at the most delicate time, when
the larger Issues depended on smooth relationships for
a few weeks.
Franks stood at his desk. ** I don't know how true
that report is," he said. *' The caller didn't identify
Hollls went out without answering. It was true, all
right. What other reason could there be for Latrim
to call a special meeting at which only his own followers
would be present. But why would he call a strike?
Even Latrim, vicious and stupid as he was, must cer-
tainly realize that a strike would be disastrous. Not
only would it hurt the men involved, but it would dis-
credit every union man in the country. It would arouse
public anger against the unions, and even bring down a
certain amount of Government wrath.
Hollls almost ran home. When he got there, Jerry
was already In the front room, his face a mask of
*' Is it true ? " Hollls burst out.
Jerry nodded. " How'd you know? "
*' Somebody called Franks while I was still in his
" We couldn't do a thing," said Jerry. " It was so
packed we weren't even able to get the floor to argue
^ 201 ^
against it. Eritt and Latrim led the hue and cry. Said
Franks had thrown them out of his office without lis-
tening to their demands. It wasn^t hard for them to
get a strike vote."
" But, Jerry," said Hollis excitedly, " Vanguard has
already named a negotiating committee to meet with
the top union heads on the big questions. If there is
trouble now, it will spoil every chance for getting the
important changes we've been working for."
Jerry sighed. *' What can we do, Hollis? " he asked
helplessly. *' The strike is set. No matter what hap-
pens, there'll be trouble."
" Did they have a majority of the men there? "
" Enough to make a quorum," said Jerry.
Hollis grasped his arm. " Listen, Jerry, we've still
got time to work. I'm going over to see Freddy Brown.
As president of the local, he can call a meeting. It
might be a bit irregular, but we've got to take that
chance. We'll call a full meeting for tomorrow night
and then try to get that vote reversed."
Jerry was up and out of his chair. "You crazy
farmer," he said happily. " You might just have the
luck to do it. I'll get going right now to line up the
men. I know where I can find Gabby, and we can see
half the local members tonight."
Jerry was out of the house before he was through
speaking, racing down the street to find Gabby and start
the wheels rolling that might stop the disaster that
loomed. Hollis set off to visit Freddy Brown, walking
as fast as his long legs would carry him. If they could
only get enough votes to reverse the strike vote, Latrim
^ 202 ^
and his followers would not be taking a legal strike ac-
tion. If they went ahead with their strike, the union
could point to them as outlaw strikers, and the trouble
would not hurt the union too much. It was the only
chance, Hollis knew.
He leaped up the steps of Freddy's house and pounded
at the door. Freddy answered it. He must also have
heard about the strike vote, for his face was taut with
He listened in silence while Hollis told about his pro-
posed plan. " I'm with you," he said tersely. " It's an
awful mess, Hollis. Worse than you realize."
" Somehow," said Freddy, ** the VSP learned about
the strike even before the meeting. Their men have
been in this neighborhood all day, recruiting men to go
through the picket line."
"Did they get any?"
" Why shouldn't they? " Freddy cried in a tormented
voice. " There are plenty of our people who haven't
worked for a long time. They'd do anything for a job.
Besides, they're still resentful about the riot, and they
figure this is one way to get revenge." Freddy was
despairing. " This makes the whole question of Ne-
groes' getting jobs a big bomb that's going to explode
right in our faces."
" This is awful," said Hollis hoarsely.
" It's murder," said Freddy, clenching his powerful
hands. *' Union fighting the company. Whites fighting
blacks. Before it's over every house in this section will
be burned to the ground."
" Why Is Latrim doing this? " Hollis almost beat
his fists against the wall in helpless despair.
" Power," replied Freddy. " He can fool enough
men into following him to make him powerful. The
bigger the smashup of things as they are now, the more
pieces he'll pick up."
" We've got to reverse that strike vote tomorrow,"
said Hollis. "We've got to!"
" We can try," said Freddy huskily. " If we don't,
Motor City will be the bloodiest battleground this
country's seen for a long time. I'm startin' out now,
HoUis. We don't have any time to lose."
They went out together. In the street Hollis saw
Negro families already preparing to flee the wrath of
the mob. The first winds of terror were already sweep-
ing down the dirty streets, whispering violence at every
Hollis hesitated a moment. Then, deliberately and
alone, he set off In the direction of the park. It was
black night now, and the chlllness of fall was in the air,
bleak and raw.
As Hollis strode toward the scene of the mob meet-
ing, his heart was sick. So many things depended on
their being able to reverse the strike vote. If the strike
went on, the cause of the union was shattered. Plus
that, there would be a renewal of race warfare. The
result of the whole thing would be a flare-up of hatreds
on every side. Suspicion and fighting would take over
in Motor City. Production would inevitably fall off,
with the result that the sinews of war would not
be available to support the men who are doing the
fighting. And at home, unity would be struck a mortal
It would be like a pebble cast in the water. The rip-
ples would go farther and farther out in an ever-widen-
ing ring. The effect of what happened in Motor City-
would be felt in every home. Races would hate each
other more, the fight between unions and employers
would take on an uglier cast, and the Government, its
hands full with the conduct of the war, would have to
take out valuable time to try to unite its fighting citizens.
And Hollis, walking now toward the scene of the
meeting, seemed to be the only one who had the power
to stop that ill-advised strike. If the men could be got-
ten together, he had his chance. Despite the fact that
he was tainted with a company brush, despite suspicions
of his motives, he would have to face the men of his
union and try to show them the folly of the strike.
By rights, Hollis felt, he should avoid this mob meet-
ing. It would be bad if he was recognized again. It
might be the spark that would set off the trouble. Yet,
the fact that Latrim might be there pulled him in closer.
Hollis eased his way through the shadows. As at the
last meeting, there was a big effigy of a Negro soaked
with kerosene to be burned. But there was less other
light tonight. Street lamps had been broken, and the
park was plunged in utter blackness.
Hollis felt, rather than saw, the mob. Where he
pushed his way along in the cover of the darkness, men
were standing tightly packed. The glow of cigarettes
^ 205 ^
and the occasional flare of a carefully shielded match
waved here and there, as though little fireflies were
There must have been thousands present, standing
grimly in the darkness, waiting for a different kind of
spark to set fire to their hatreds. The mob stood mut-
tering and irritable, ready to be convinced that Negroes
should not have jobs, eager to be convinced.
Only one thing was different. Instead of a few po-
lice, there was a strong force on hand. Hollis saw the
police cars parked a little way from the outer fringes of
the mob. Lights from the cars glinted on badges and
riot guns. The police were nervous too, knowing that
once a mob gets out of hand, it goes wild. Although
the police were there In force, their forces were puny
compared to the size of the mob.
But the sting of public criticism had forced the city
officials into action, and the police were determined that
there would be no repetition of the former riot. Husky
police officers paced back and forth like nervous lions
in a cage, ready to spring at the first sign of trouble.
Hollis skirted the edge of the crowd. Now, if he
had to flee, he could run toward the protection of the
police, rather than lead the mob into the Negro section.
The formless rumbling of the mob increased as men
grew touchy and nerves became raw from the inaction.
Isolated cries for action rose shrilly above the hidden
thunder of many low voices.
Then a speaker was heard. His voice came from the
direction of the effigy, which still swung in the darkness,
its outlines etched by the faint glow of the moon. Just
^ 206 ^
as at the previous meeting, the speech was bursting with
venom. When the first speaker stopped, others came
forward to thunder against the evils of unionism, for-
eigners, Negroes, and radicals. They knew their work
well, and soon the crowd was whipped toward the ex-
cited frenzy that takes the place of reason.
Hollis located the direction of the voices and began
pushing through the crowd again. He had one object
in mind. He wanted to find and identify Latrim. He
wanted to stalk his man, watch him, and try to follow
But in the blackness Hollis was working against great
odds. He worked through the mob like a lean needle,
threading this way and that, as he tried to locate the
source of the speakers.
Then Hollis realized the speakers were in different
parts of the park. It was hard to get his directions
straight. Hollis paused, in the middle of the mob, not
knowing which way to turn. With caution as his guide,
Hollis edged back toward the police again. At any
minute a match might flare up to expose his features to
some enemy. He was beginning to attract a little at-
tention by his moving around, because he jostled people
every time he moved.
If only he could find Latrim. If only he could catch
Latrim while he was speaking, or with some of the
speakers. If he could do that, Latrim would be ex-
posed. He would certainly be expelled from the union,
and that would break his power.
On the other hand, to unmask Latrim would compli-
cate matters. He was identified with the union. To
ir 207 ^
identify him also with the agitation against Negroes
would throw some blame on the union, and innocent
union men would suffer. Hollis thought about that,
but even that did not deter him. The innocent might
suffer for a while, but if Latrim was allowed to keep on,
there would be much more suffering by many more in-
nocent, and the guilty would be escaping altogether.
Hollis stopped. Latrim's voice? He listened in-
tently. He was certain he had heard Latrim. A few
muffled words followed by a laugh were all he had to
go on. But they were his only clue. Hollis turned and
wormed his way toward that spot. It was toward the
police. That was good.
Hollis pushed through faster. He bumped into a
man, his knee hitting something hard and knocking it to
" Easy, will you? " a voice complained.
" Sorry," said Hollis softly. He bent down to pick
up what he had hit. His hands closed on a boxlike af-
fair. His heart quickened. It was a camera. He
handed it back to the owner.
*' Newspaper photographer?" He whispered the
question in the man's ear.
He felt a warning hand grip him. " Don't say the
nasty words. Want me to get mobbed ? "
" Follow me," Hollis whispered. " And get your
camera ready. I may have something for you."
The photographer fell in behind him, hiding his cam-
Hollis maneuvered himself into the clear. The pho-
tographer stopped him. " What's up? '*
^ 208 ^
" I think I can spot one of the ringleaders," said Hol-
lis. *' If I grab him, can you get his picture ? It's front-
" If youVe crazy enough to do it, Fm crazy enough
to shoot it. But maybe we ought to get a couple of cops
" That would scare him away. They'll come fast
enough — I hope."
" Who's the guy you're after? '*
"You'll see. Ready?"
" If you are."
*' O. K." Hollis eased himself forward toward the
spot where he had last heard Latrim's voice. He got
down close to the ground, so that the men would be out-
lined against the faint Hght of the moon. A quick dash
when he saw his man, a picture — and the police, in
time to save his life. If the police didn't get through in
time — Hollis shook that thought from his mind.
He crouched down, waiting his chance. Then he saw
the outline he was waiting for. He saw the heavy head,
the thickset shoulders. For a moment they were
Hollis dug his toes in the ground and raced toward
the figure. His speed attracted immediate attention.
There were startled cries of alarm and warning. But
Hollis raced onward, without swerving. Hollis' victim
saw him loom up in the darkness. With a squawk of
alarm he turned and tried to escape. He stumbled, and
Hollis was on him in a flash, grasping him by the shoul-
ders and swinging him around.
The camera flashed blue lightning in the night. For
^ 209 ^
a moment the entire scene was exposed to the bright
light. In that fraction of a second HoUis' exultation
changed to shocked surprise and despair. The man he
held was not Latrim I It was, as far as he could see, a
Before he could recover from his shock, Hollls was at
the bottom of a heap of struggling men. Blows and
kicks beat at him in a rough hail. Hollis tried to curl up
in a protective ball and roll away.
He heard the shrill of police whistles and the roar of
many people. Something landed close by and began
giving off a thick cloud of smoke. The crowd fell back
from the sputtering tear-gas bomb, leaving an avenue
for the police to rush through and pull away at the pile
of men on Hollis.
Hollis felt himself yanked to his feet. He was
bruised and dazed, hardly feeling himself being hustled
off to the patrol wagon. He was pushed in and the
doors slammed shut. He heard a policeman say, " Put
the others in the other wagon or they'll tear each other
Riding in solitary batteredness, Hollis was whirled
through the streets of Motor City. At the city jail he
was hustled up the steps, quickly booked, and led to a
It was only when the steel doors clanged behind him
that he first realized how serious his situation was. The
union meeting was scheduled for the next afternoon.
And at the moment of great decision, HolHs MacEach-
ron would be sitting by himself in jail, watching his
world crumble into a violent dust.
Hollis sat with his head in his hands, bemoaning his
rash action. He ached all over, but the physical ache
was as nothing compared to the hurt deep inside him.
He had spoiled any chance of exposing Latrim in time
HOLLIS PASSED THE FIRST NIGHT OF HIS LIFE IN JAIL.
He felt the disgrace of arrest too keenly to call any of
his friends to bail him out. He wasn't interested in the
charge or what would be done with him. All he knew
was that he had left the field open for Latrim, and that
he was powerless to help to stop the strike.
He was surprised in the morning when he was awak-
ened by a guard to find Jerry and Gabby on hand to visit
him. Hollis was ashamed to face them.
Jerry sat on the bunk while Gabby sat on the floor in
" Man I " said Gabby. '' I never thought I'd be walk-
ing into a jail because I wanted to. Every time they close
a door I get nervous."
Hollis smiled. '* I didn't exactly plan on ending up
" Seen the paper this morning? " Jerry asked, hold-
ing out a copy.
Hollis took it. On the front page a big picture
showed him strugghng with the rioter. Hollis saw
himself surrounded by burly figures. Just behind
him one of the men was swinging at him with a short
" Who'd I catch? " Hollls asked.
"AVSPman. And that club Identifies another. Boy,
youVe sure busted that organization wide open. You've
put the finger right on Vanguard."
" Yeah," added Gabby. " Just try and hold up that
Hollls put down the paper. " What about our meet-
ing this afternoon? "
*' It's being held. Be jammed too. Latrim will have
his outfit there. Besides, what happened with you last
night will pull every member to the meeting."
*' Every member but me," said Hollls.
"What's your bail?"
" I don't know. It doesn't matter. I couldn't meet it
Jerry stood up. " Maybe we can. Come on, Gabby.
If we haven't got enough, we'll collect it. Don't worry,
Hollls, we'll have you out of here in time for the
" See you later," said Gabby.
Hollls waved a farewell. When they were gone he
read the newspaper. It was full of ominous news. The
war, the strike, the racial trouble — all took up a big
share of the news. No matter how HoUis looked at it,
heavy trouble seemed Imminent.
About an hour later Hollls had another visitor. The
door of his cell swung open to admit Jason D. Franks.
Hollls stared in silent surprise at his visitor. As soon
as they were alone, Franks began questioning Hollls.
" What happened last night? I can't make head or
tail of the newspaper accounts. All I know is that you
tangled with the rioters, and the man you attacked be-
longs to the VSP. Right?"
" That's about it," said Hollis. " I made a mistake.
I thought it was Latrim."
*' Latrim? " Franks was startled.
Hollis told him about hearing Latrim speak at the
first meeting. " I was positive this fellow was Latrim,"
said Hollis. " I thought by exposing him I could dis-
credit him with the union, and stop the strike. But it
didn't work. Now the men are madder than ever at the
VSP, and want to strike more than before."
" What do you plan to do ? " Franks asked bluntly.
" Some of my friends are trying to raise enough money
to bail me out," said Hollis. '' Then I'll go to the
"We can't wait for that," said Franks. " I'll bail
you out now."
" Thanks," said Hollis. " I hope you didn't come
down here just to help iiie."
"And why not?" Franks demanded. "You've
got work to do." He called the guard to lead them
Hollis took a chair while Franks saw to the bail. He
was almost through when the VSP man Hollis had at-
tacked was led into the room, accompanied by his law-
yer, a natty individual with a bulging brief case and a
quick, aggressive manner.
The lawyer leaped forward eagerly when he saw
Franks. " Ah, Mr. Franks, I'm glad to see you here.
^ 215 ^
IVe already preferred the usual charges against this
*' What hoodlum?"
The lawyer pointed at Hollis. He felt it was his mo-
ment to make a good impression on Franks. It might,
he felt, lead to a better job with Vanguard. The law-
yer struck a dramatic pose and leveled his finger at
" Such dastardly attacks on innocent people will not
be countenanced," he thundered. " The might of Van-
guard Motors will be brought in to see that justice is
rendered. You will suffer for your cowardly act, you
" Just a minute," said Franks coldly. " I'll thank
you not to connect the name of Vanguard Motors with
this person." Franks indicated the burly figure of the
"But Mr. Franks I" gasped the lawyer. "I'm
afraid you do not understand. My client is a member of
the VSP. I am retained by them — "
" He's fired," said Franks brusquely. " And so are
you. Present your bill to the company."
The lawyer began to sputter. " But the VSP — "
" I won't have such men in my employ! " thundered
Franks. " I'm getting to the bottom of this, and when
I'm through every man involved in this mess will be
Franks turned on the VSP man. " Who's behind
The VSP man quailed before Franks's piercing gaze.
" We was all supposed to help," he muttered. " It was
company policy. It was so we could keep the workin*
*' Were there any labor men In with you? "
The VSP man's eyes narrowed cunningly. " I don't
know. Most of the men were strangers to me."
Franks could see it was fruitless to question the man
further. He was only a tool of higher-ups. Franks de-
cided to see those In charge.
" I'm going back to my office," he said to Hollls.
*' I'm going to have a session with the VSP leaders. I
don't know of a better time to cut the rottenness out of
our organization. You attend your meeting and do
what you can."
Franks walked out of the room, brisk and determined.
Hollls looked questionlngly at the magistrate. " You
can go, MacEachron. Your bail's taken care of."
The magistrate turned to the lawyer. " Are you pre-
pared to bail out your client? "
"I — that is — "
" Lock him up again," said the magistrate wearily.
Hollis came home to find Jerry and Gabby carefully
counting a large stack of bills. Gabby looked up briefly
as HolHs came in. *' Got any money?" he asked.
" We're trying to get enough to — Hey, how did you
*' Franks came down and bailed me out," said Hollls.
" So I could get to the meeting this afternoon."
Jerry whistled. "Will wonders never cease? We
didn't think we'd be able to get enough."
" Franks fired the VSP man," said Hollis. " Looks
as though we're getting a break there."
*' You don't know strike fever," said Jerry. " Once
it gets started, it's hard to stop."
"How much does Latrim know about all this?"
" I don't know," said HolIIs. " But I'm pretty sure
of one thing. If he was mixed up with the mob, he also
had some ties with the VSP. By now that shyster law-
yer has called him and told him everything. He'll be at
the meeting with plenty of ammunition."
" Frankly," said Jerry, *' it will be hard to explain
why Franks bailed you out. You should have let the
union do it."
" But I couldn't wait. For all I knew you wouldn't
be able to raise the money. Anyway, it just happens
that Franks doesn't want a strike any more than we do."
" Just because it's true doesn't make it sound any bet-
ter," Jerry warned. " Right now anything the company
does is poison to a lot of union men."
" We'll worry about that later," said Hollis. " All I
know is that if the strike goes through, we'll lose all the
big things we've been fighting for. Walters and his
plans will be doomed."
" I wish Walters would come to the meeting," said
Gabby. " We should have let him know. If he backed
you up, nobody would dare question his honesty and
that would help you."
"Well, he isn't here," replied Hollis. "And we'll
just have to do it without him. Let's go."
The hall was almost filled when Hollis arrived with
Jerry and Gabby. There were two entrances to the hall.
One at the front, at the side of the platform, and the
other at the back of the hall. Hollis went in the back
way, taking a seat in the rear row.
A number of men saw him come in and shouted to
him. Most of the shouts were cries of backing and
" There^s the battler in person."
"O you wildcat I"
" How'd you get out of jail, Hollis? "
Hollis smiled at those who shouted at him. He was
beginning to feel more confident about the outcome of
the meeting. As yet there was no sign of Latrim, Eritt,
or any of that faction. For a while HolHs nursed the
hope that they would not come.
Finally Freddy Brown went up front and rapped with
his gavel. The men were silent. Freddy spoke simply
and to the point.
" You all know why we're here," he said seriously.
" We've had a fast one pulled on us, and we find our-
selves bound by a strike vote. We can reverse that
vote. We've got to."
Before Freddy could go any further there was the
sound of many feet marching up the stairs. Every eye
turned toward the back door. Headed by Latrim, a
steady stream of men poured into the room, quickly fill-
ing up the seats and jamming in close to take up all the
standing room. They came in noisily, stomping their
feet and talking loudly.
It was a display of strength and power that had its
effect. The mass entrance made it seem as though La-
trim was followed by every worker in the Vanguard
plant. The noise of their feet drowned out the sound
of Freddy's voice. He was forced to yield to the Inter-
ruption, and that made the interruption seem more im-
portant than ever.
Finally, Freddy was able to resume his speaking.
" At this time,'' he said, " I want to turn the floor over
to Brother MacEachron, to present a few facts about
Hollls rose and walked to the front of the hall. He
was suffering from a sudden and severe case of stage
fright. His tongue seemed to be stuck to the roof of his
mouth, and there was a loud roaring in his ears.
The roar finally divided Into two parts. A roar of
encouragement from his friends, and a roar of derision
from Latrim's faction. As Hollis stood on the plat-
form waiting to speak, each side tried to shout down
the other, and the result was a terrifying bedlam of
Freddy pounded with his gavel until the noise qui-
eted, subsiding to an occasional shout or jeer. Then
HolHs began to speak.
In that moment, his stage fright fell away. He was
conscious only of the importance of what he had to say.
He hardly heard his own words, and he didn't have to
stop and think about what to say. It was all there in his
head crying for expression.
In the slow accents of his country speech, Hollls pre-
sented his argument. He pointed out how the strike
would rebound upon the heads of the union men. How
it would be seized upon by all the enemies of labor as an
excuse to crack down on labor.
He showed how the race question entered. How the
strike would cause a flare-up between whites and blacks
at a time when the whole world looked to America for
unity in the war between the worlds.
The men listened in silence, impressed by the logic of
his arguments. Hollls told again how he had been hired
by Franks. He told how Franks had called him in to
offer him a job as company spy, and how he had turned
it down. Further, he pleaded with them to believe
that Franks and the management would make an hon-
est effort to settle the questions which the union was
When Hollls finished, he sat down on a chair on
the platform. He was greeted again by a mixed chorus
of cheers and boos. At the end, Latrim was on his feet,
his bull voice and commanding figure demanding and
getting the attention of all the men in the hall.
Calling for the floor from the back of the hall, Latrim
strode forward, speaking as he walked, his voice boom-
ing to every corner.
"Who bailed you out of jail?" he demanded of
" Jason Franks," shouted Hollls angrily, jumping to
Latrim swung around to face the union members.
*'Yes, Jason Franks," he trumpeted. "And why?
Why, Brothers, would Jason Franks make a personal
visit to the jail in order to bail out a union man who has
assaulted a member of the VSP? Have you ever heard
of that happening before? "
His question was met by silence from Hollis* sup-
porters and a great outcry from his enemies.
" Franks bailed him out because Hollls MacEachron
is working for Franks I " bawled Latrim. " He had to
make sure that MacEachron was here at this meeting
to break up the strike.
" We called a strike at a regular meeting. Now, this
company stooge tries to break up the lawful decisions of
the union by calling a meeting behind our backs. Is that
the way for a good union brother to act? That whole
VSP incident last night was deliberately planned by
Vanguard in order to build up MacEachron. Only it
didn't work, and they had to bail him out and expose
" Ever since MacEachron came into our union, he's
been preaching for us to give in to the company. Now
he wants us to give up a strike because he says ' big ne-
gotiations ' are coming up. How does he know? Mr.
Franks told him. And why did Franks tell him? So he
could tell us, and keep us from striking. I don't know
how it is to you, but it seems pretty funny to me that a
sweeper should be on such intimate terms with Jason
Every point Latrim made against Hollis was noisily
supported by Latrim's followers. They made so much
din it seemed that every man in the hall was on his
side. And it was true that he struck telling blows at
To union men, accustomed to being hounded by the
VSP, it was indeed strange that Hollis should be on
such close terms with Franks. Despite themselves, the
men friendly to Hollis began to suspect him. They were
uneasy, not knowing which way to turn — and the heavy
support Latrim was receiving finally swung them around
to support him.
When Latrim finished his first attack, Hollis rose to
defend himself. The noise was too great for him to say
a word. Freddy banged with his gavel, but it wasn't
even heard. The roar was going against Hollis.
Suddenly, from the back of the hall, someone hurled
a tomato at Hollis. It sailed through the air and hit
him on the shoulder. This was the signal for a con-
certed barrage of fruit and vegetables.
Hollis stood erect, facing his audience. Eggs, toma-
toes, rotten apples — they threw everything at him.
He was struck on the body and in the face, but he kept
The beginnings of physical action against Hollis
swung away most of his support. There was something
contagious in the attack on him. Men who had believed
him a moment before now joined the attack to cry in-
sults at him and brandish their fists. New jets of hatred
hissed out at Hollis with every passing minute.
A half brick hurled through the air narrowly missed
Hollis and crashed against the wall behind him. Hol-
lis paled. It was getting more serious. He saw La-
trim's game. Latrim himself was having none of it.
Safely out of range, he held his cigar clamped between
his teeth and watched his triumph.
Another brick sailed past Hollis' head. Some of the
men in the background started moving forward, inciting
the crowd to violence.
"Lynch him 1"
** Get that spy I"
** Don't let him get away! "
" Teach the dirty stoolie a lesson! "
The crowd surged forward. Freddy shouted to Hol-
lis:"Run, Hollls! Run!"
Hollls hesitated a moment. Run from his own union
brothers? Run like a thief? He threw up his hands.
" Listen to me I " he howled at the top of his lungs.
His words weren't heard. Someone threw a folding
chair at him. It hit Hollis on the thigh, almost knock-
ing him off balance. As he stumbled, the roar of the
angry crowd swelled louder as the men rushed in to
capture their wounded quarry.
HolHs hesitated no longer. He sprinted for the door
near the platform and ran out into the hall. He turned
and raced down the long corridor. Behind, the men
stopped at the door, contenting themselves with hurling
objects at him and shouting ribald taunts.
Hollis limped downstairs. His clothes were cov-
ered with egg and stains left by rotted vegetables. His
leg ached where it had been hit by the chair. He wiped
a streak of tomato from his face. He felt tears of de-
spair coming into his eyes.
He stopped and tried to straighten himself up a little,
but he was too discouraged to do much. He walked to-
ward the exit, his head bent.
" Hollis, what happened? "
Hollis looked up as he heard the shocked words.
Jason Franks stood before him, accompanied by a stran-
ger who looked vaguely familiar to Hollis.
Hollis shrugged and gave a short, bitter laugh.
** This is the union's answer."
" Oh, It IS, eh? " said Franks, a dangerous light in his
steely eyes. " We'll see about that." He started for
HoUis reached out and caught his arm. *' Don't go
up there," he warned. " Latrim's got them all keyed
up. It isn't safe."
" Nonsense," said Franks. " Vm not afraid of the
men who work for me. Come on, Walters."
Hollis stared at Franks's companion. Walters —
Roy Walters, the stocky, bespectacled head of the
GEIU, who looked like a husky college professor.
Walters — with Franks I
" The boy may be right," said Walters. *' But I'll go
first. If they'll listen to reason, you can come in."
Walters started forward. Franks fell in behind him,
and Hollis kept step.
" Maybe you shouldn't go, Hollis," said Franks,
" They seem to be awfully angry with you."
'' I'll go," said Hollis. " I shouldn't have run in the
first place. I've nothing to be ashamed of."
*' I thought this might happen," Franks said to Hol-
lis as the three went up the stairs. " I didn't know what
to do to help you out, so I called Walters and asked him
to come down here with me."
" We came as quickly as we could," Walters said.
" I'm sorry we didn't get here earlier."
" What made you think there'd be trouble? " Hollis
" The lawyer I fired. I figured that if Latrim was
hooked up in any way with the VSP, the lawyer would
be quick to let him know I bailed you out."
They reached the top corridor. They could hear La-
trim's powerful voice inciting the men to direct action.
Franks stopped in his tracks. " That's the man," he
said, his lips tight. " That's he."
"The anonymous caller who told me a strike had
been called." Franks's voice was grim. " The scoun-
drel. First calling a strike and then seeing that I knew
in time to get the VSP ready. He was making sure
we'd have trouble, all right."
They reached the door of the auditorium. Inside,
the din was still loud and belligerent.
Walters turned to Franks. " Still want to take a
chance on going in? "
Franks nodded. " Certainly."
*' How about you, Hollis? "
" I'm going in."
Walters smiled. " That's the spirit. Follow me."
Walters opened the door and walked in quickly, fol-
lowed closely by Franks and Hollis.
Their sudden appearance stunned the members of the
local. There was an astonished silence as the three men
walked up the platform. Latrim, aware that some-
thing was wrong, turned to look. His face turned a
The moment of astonishment was brief. On the heels
of the silence another tremendous roar rose to the roof.
Men were oh their feet, shouting in an unintelligible
mass of sound.
Jason Franks stepped to the edge of the platform.
The roar of the crowd became a great howling boo.
"^ 226 '^
Franks tried to call for quiet, but the boos merely grew
louder, and angrier. Cries of " Strike 1 '* were hurled
from every corner.
Walters stepped forward quickly. He held up his
hands for quiet, his face angry.
The shouting subsided at the sight of his command-
ing figure. It faded away, and the hall was quiet —
heavily quiet. For a long moment Walters stood mo-
tionless, saying nothing. An equally complete silence
took command of his audience.
" Thanks for the ovation," Walters said dryly.
Someone snickered. It caught on, and in a moment
a tremendous wave of laughter swept over the men.
Laughter brought sanity with it, and in that moment an
angry, unreasoning mass of men became a group of in-
dividuals, each listening for himself.
Walters became serious again. " I won't beat about
the bush," he said. " I want you to know at the very be-
ginning that I and the rest of the union leaders are all
against this ill-timed and ill-advised strike." Walters
turned briefly to look directly at Latrim.
" In a short time, a negotiating committee from the
union is going to meet with a negotiating committee
from Vanguard. At that meeting we're going to discuss
everything — wages, overtime, seniority, production —
everything that affects us as workers and as Americans.
" We are asking for something that American labor
has never had, and that is a voice in the planning of pro-
duction. If we ever hope to get that, we've got to show
that we are responsible, that the union is capable of dis-
cipline and understanding.
^ 227 ^
*' Also at this meeting, we're to discuss better ways
of handling the grievances of the various departments,
and how to do it more efficiently.
** A strike such as you are now calling will do more
than hold up our conference. It will tie up production.
It will mean that the boys at the front will be left with-
out the industrial support they need. Many of our
union brothers are in the Army. If we do anything to
slow down or impede production, we're signing their
death warrant. We're asking them to sacrifice their
lives when we won't sacrifice a few weeks to settle some
petty complaint. We'd have to take a lot of the respon-
sibility If the war was lost. We can't let that happen.
We've got to reverse this strike vote. One more thing.
The men responsible for this strike call won't be in the
union very long. They'll get enough time to clean out
their desks — if they're quick about it! Now, I want
you to listen to Mr. Franks. I want you to show him
the same courtesy you expect from the company — a
When Franks stepped forward to speak, he was
greeted by a round of applause and then a respectful
" You might like to know," he began, " that the VSP
went out of existence at noon today — "
Franks had to wait several minutes before the joyous
clamor subsided. ** Mr. Walters has talked to you
about your responsibilities. True, labor has them. But
so does industry. We've got to do our part as well.
We've got to think more about the welfare of our work-
ers and less about the comforts of our stockholders.
We've got to think of our country's needs before we
think about profits. We too have to show that we are
responsible and can be trusted. And just between you
and me, we haven't done any too well ourselves.
" But the past is dead. All that counts now is the
future. Let us hope we can work together in confidence
and trust. And if we do, Vanguard will owe a great
deal to the efforts of HoUis MacEachron, who has done
much to make it possible."
Franks pulled Hollis forward. " Say something,"
Hollis, still showing the effects of the recent vegeta-
ble barrage, faced the men who had driven him away a
short time before.
" As I was saying a short time ago," began Hollis,
" before I was so emphatically interrupted — "
He was greeted with a roar of good-natured laugh-
ter. Most of the men were feeling well ashamed of
" I'd like," said Hollis, " to move that we vote
against having the strike."
" Second the motion I " shouted Jerry from some-
where in the crowd.
The motion was carried by a voice vote. When it
was quiet again, HoUis said, *' That's all I want to say."
He turned and walked away, followed by cheers and a
few scattered boos.
The meeting was ended. Hollis walked with Franks
and Walters to Franks's big car, which was parked
outside. " Let me give you both a lift," urged
it 229 ^
They got in and started off toward Hollis' home.
They rolled past the massive buildings of the Vanguard
plant. Smoke was pouring out of the tall chimneys, and
the air was filled with the sound of steady production.
The great industrial giant gulped huge amounts of raw
material, turning out a constant flow of supplies.
Walters turned his eyes from the towering factories.
** I have an offer to make, Hollis. Latrim is out, and we
need someone to take his place. I can't think of any
better man to fill that job than yourself."
Hollis flushed with pleasure. " Me? You'd better
think it over. After all, Fm new in this."
" I've thought it over," said Walters. " What do
you say? "
" I don't know," said Hollis. ** I never thought of
being an organizer. I'm a mechanic."
" If you don't want Walters' job," said Franks, " I
can give you something better than the assembly line.
You've done us a service as well as your union. I'd like
to reward you with a job you'd like. Where you can use
Hollis shook his head tiredly. " I don't know," he
repeated. " My mind's jumping all over. I'm not clear
about what I ought to do."
A whistle at the plant screamed hoarsely. Hollis
looked up. '' Could I have some time off, Mr. Franks ? "
" Some time off. I'd like to go back to Holden for a
while. I can think better there. I'm all wound up in-
side. I feel I've got to get away and think, I'm grate-
ful for your offer — and yours too, Mr. Walters — but
Vd like a few weeks to think them over."
** I should say you can have a vacation," chuckled
Franks. *' YouVe had a hectic few months since you
left Iowa. How much? Two weeks?"
" If that would be all right."
Hollis got out of the car. " FU let you know as soon
as I decide," he said. '' And I'd like to thank you both
for your offers."
Hollis shut the door of the car and watched it drive
off. It turned a corner and disappeared. Hollis sighed
and looked up at the window of his room. If he was
going back to Holden, he'd better take his tools along.
Pop might need some help. He hadn't looked at the
tools for a long time. They'd need cleaning.
Hollis went in the house and leaped up the steps three
at a time. A few minutes later he was sitting on the
floor, busily at work.
He was almost through packing his clothes when
Jerry and Gabby came in. They took one look at what
he was doing and both grabbed him.
** Where do you think you're going?" Jerry de-
** Yeah," added Gabby. '* And without us."
*' I'll be back," Hollis smiled. " I'm just going back
to Holden for a few weeks. Walters and Franks both
offered me jobs, and I want time to think their offers
"Oh, brother I" said Gabby. "Let 'em offer me
something. I could give them an answer before they
Hollls closed his suitcase. " Do I get an official es-
cort to the bus station? "
Jerry grabbed the tool kit and Gabby took the suit-
case. " On your way, MacEachron. And don't come
back for two weeks."
In the bus, Hollls relaxed fully for the first time since
he had come to Motor City. He stared Idly out of the
window while the bus moved through the city, past the
industrial outskirts, and Into the country.
In an hour Motor City and the Vanguard Plant were
both a dream. The bus was rolling through open,
peaceful country, far from the sound of assembly lines,
roaring machines, and thousands of men. The open
fields stretched before Hollls, dotted with cattle and In-
frequent farmhouses tucked away in the shelter of trees.
He breathed deeply. In place of smoke and grime and
gasoline fumes, he breathed fresh air and smelled the
Suddenly he hated Motor City. He hated the city
and the factories and the strife. He welcomed the peace
of the country, letting it move In and take control of
him. He surrendered to its quietness and calm solitude.
He thought of Holden, and longed to be there quickly.
He felt that he would never want to leave it again.
And then he was at Holden. The bus drew up at the
hotel and Hollls got out. He looked around. Nothing
had changed. The old men were still In the hotel, sit-
ting behind the big window where It was warm. The
houses were all still there, looking the same. Down the
street was Pop's garage. It hadn't changed. The same
chickens were still scratching around the same aban-
doned wrecks of cars.
HoUis scratched his head. Holden was exactly as It
always had been. It slept on, never changing, never
startled at anything, knowing little and caring less
about what was going on outside. Where the last house
in Holden stopped, the world stopped. What went on
beyond the fields and over the hills wasn't of much con-
cern. Wars and struggles and strife were all part of
*' what the paper says," and no more.
Hollls picked up his belongings and walked down the
street toward the garage.
At the entrance he heard Pop talking with a farmer.
Hollls eased up to the door and looked In. Pop was
standing with his hands on his hips, looking at an old
Ford that waited for attention. The farmer stood near
by, arms folded, watching Pop.
" I don't know what's got into that car of yours," Pop
said as Hollls got within hearing range. " Sure has
been actin' up lately."
" Can you fix 'er? " the farmer asked.
'' Make a try," said Pop. He chuckled. " If I can't,
it won't cost you a cent."
" Uh huh," the farmer said unenthusiastically.
" Say, whatever became of that boy you had workin' for
"Went to Motor City," said Pop, picking up a
wrench and hefting It as though he was going to start
belaboring the Ford with it. " Got him a job In the au-
" I'll bet he's making the kind of money you and me
never dreamed of," said the farmer. " I don't know
what those fellows are always strikin' and kickin' up
trouble about, what with the wages they get."
" They don't get as much as some folks think," said
Pop defensively, feeling that Hollis was being attacked.
"And it's tough work."
** Their high wages is what keeps us farm people
poor," grumbled the farmer. *' Everything we buy
costs too much."
** I never heard anybody complain they bought some-
thing that didn't cost them enough," said Pop. '* Ev-
erybody likes to take it in, but none of us likes to give it
out again." Pop straightened up. " I can't find nothin'
wrong, but she won't run."
Hollis stepped through the door, a big grin on his
face. '' Want me to take a whack at it. Pop ? "
Pop whirled, his jaw sagging. '* Hollis — I " He
dropped his wrench and grabbed HoUis by the hand, al-
most tearing it off. " Hollis I Why didn't you tell me
you were coming back? "
*' Didn't know I was coming until I was on my way.
What's the trouble here? "
** Same old trouble. It won't go."
HolHs dropped his tool kit. " Give me about two
minutes to get into my overalls, and I'll have a look at
it. Maybe we can fix it up."
Hollis went into the little room where he had lived
for so many years. He heard Pop say to the farmer :
" Just you wait. Hollis will fix 'er. He can fix any-
^ 234 ^
Hollis came out eagerly and opened his tool kit. His
hands closed around the handles of wrenches, hammers,
and pliers. New, rushing life surged with his blood.
He almost trembled as he approached the old car. It
was good to be a man again, to have a job that called for
the skill of your hands and the knowledge of your
brain. No assembly line to speed you up. No mo-
notonous movements to repeat a thousand times a
day. Your own job, your own way, taking your own
Hollis slid under the car. He reached up and rubbed
his hands in oil and grease, getting them covered with
the good dirt of his trade. He adjusted his light. For
a moment as he looked down the drive shaft he won-
dered who the man was who had used the wrench that
tightened six nuts.
He crawled out a few minutes later, wiping his hands
on a piece of oily waste. " Try it now,'' he said, smiling.
The farmer got in and started up his car. It worked
smoothly. He smiled back. *' How much for the job ? "
he asked Pop.
** It's on the house," said Pop expansively. " A
The farmer nodded his thanks and drove off, rattling
down the road toward the fields.
Pop turned and looked at Hollis again. " So you're
back with Pop again," he said wonderingly.
" Only for a little while. Pop," said Hollis. '' I've
got a two-week vacation."
Pop looked disappointed. '* I thought maybe you'd
come back for good."
** I don't know about that either," Hollis replied.
" I've got a lot of thinking to do."
Pop got out his big red bandanna and wiped his fore-
head out of habit. " Think away," he said. " If you
need any help. Til be glad to talk things over with you."
*' ril wrestle with it awhile alone," said Hollis. " But
I may need your help to get the answer pinned to the
He worked around the little shop for the rest of the
day, telling Pop about the things that had happened in
Motor City. Pop listened, shaking his head, mutter-
ing, and clucking sympathetically with his tongue.
At the end of the day Hollis went to have his supper
at the little restaurant where he had always eaten. It
was roast-beef night. Afterward he walked around
town for a bit, then returned to his little room in the
He sat in his chair for a long time, then went slowly
to bed, where he lay awake, trying to see his problem
through. Then Hollis realized that he was feeling the
same as he had felt the first night in Motor City, when
he had slept at the Y. M. C. A. — lonely and lost.
He missed eating with his fellow workers. He missed
their conversation, and the discussion of union and work
problems. He missed talking with Jerry until both fell
asleep. He even missed the lonely roaring of the street-
cars in the night. He missed the sound of the nation's
heart beating — the hum and roar and clanking of the
factories. He fell asleep in a quietness so complete
that he wanted to shout to break it.
For a week Hollis kept himself from thinking about
what his future course would be. He worked with Pop,
fixed cars, and knew that he had lost none of his old
skill. But as his time for a decision came closer, Hollis
spent hours trying to think the thing through. Should
he stay in Holden with Pop ? Should he take the union
job? the company offer?
The more he thought about it, the more he realized
that he had not yet decided where he belonged in the
world. It had been simple before : go to school, be an
engineer, get a job — success. Now it wasn^t so simple.
He took his problem to Pop, mentioning the choice
between the union and the company offer.
" Both sound good," said Pop. " If you take that
union offer, you'll probably get to be somebody pretty
important in the labor movement, as you call it. Be
reading all about you in the papers. On the other hand,
if you take the company job, you've got the chance at
being an engineer of some kind. And I'm sure if you
did that, you'd get to be famous too. You're not like
most other people, Hollis. You got the chance to go
Hollis nodded absently. He returned to his work,
letting his hands take over while his mind was busy
matching arguments and counterarguments. That night
he lay awake for hours. But when he finally fell asleep,
he had his answer.
Hollis was whistling when Pop came in the garage the
next morning. Pop looked at him eagerly. " Made up
your mind, Hollis? "
HoUis nodded, still whistling.
Hollls shook his head.
" I figured you wouldn't take it. You need a job
working with your hands. So the company gets you,
Hollis shook his head, looking owlishly at Pop as he
" Then it is the union job."
Pop advanced slowly. "Hollis — you don't mean
you're gonna — gonna stay here — with old Pop? "
Hollis stopped whistling. *' I'm afraid not. Pop," he
said, hating to hurt Pop's feelings.
Pop was puzzled. " But what will you do ? If you're
not gonna take either of those jobs, and not stay
here — "
" I'm going back to the assembly line."
" I don't understand, Hollis."
*' Neither did I Pop, until you put me on the right
" When you said I was different."
*' You are different."
" I'm not, Pop. You know, when I left Holden the
first time, all I was interested in was myself. All I cared
about the world was what I could get out of it. I
thought I was the only one in the world with any ambi-
tion to better myself."
" You are different," Pop insisted.
" To you, maybe. You see, Pop, to you I'm differ-
ent, and all the others are the same. But take Jerry.
Somebody probably thinks he's different, and the rest of
us are the same. And somebody probably thinks the
same thing about Gabby. And that goes for every man
who works in every plant in the country. We are dif-
ferent — in the same way."
"We're different people, but we've got the same
problems. We all want to get along. We've all got
different abilities, but we all want the same chance to
use those abilities."
" Is that a reason for turning down a chance to get
" This kind of chance," Hollis answered. " The way
I figure it, at first each worker thought he was so dif-
ferent from the others that he wouldn't get together
with his fellows. But finally the workers realized that
they had to get together to get along at all. Then,
when the unions were organized, it only widened the
split between the men and the company, and things
were still bad. Now the unions and companies are get-
ting together, and things are getting better for both."
" Then take the union job," said Pop. " You'll be in
a position to help lead the men to those better things
you're talking about."
" Can't and don't want to," said Hollis. " In the
first place, it's not the job I'm really cut out for — "
" But you've already proved you're a born leader,"
" I'm a mechanic," insisted Hollis. " What leading
I do from now on I'll do from the ranks. I'll really be
more good to my union as an ordinary member. Men
trust me. So does the company. I want to be among the
" Right now unions are still politics ridden, but the
day is coming when only specially trained men will reach
positions of leadership in the unions. I don't want to
be a politician ever and if I took a job as a union leader
I would want to qualify for it in the same way I want
to qualify as an engineer. Because we need highly
trained people as leaders in the unions to show us the
way. And someday we'll have them — ''
"But what about your future?" Pop persisted.
" You may never get another chance like this again."
*^ ril have to risk that." Hollis sought for words to
explain how he felt to Pop. " You see, Pop, I have
faith in the ability of the union to go a long way. It's
done a lot for the men, but it can do more, now that It's
working closer with the company. If I step out now,
and take a good job, it will be as though I didn't have
that faith. It would solve my personal problem right
away to take either one of those jobs, but It wouldn't
solve the big problem of all the others like me."
*' You can't help that. You got the chance. A man
has got to look out for himself first."
Hollis smiled at these strange words from Pop.
*' Look at it this way," he said. *' Suppose It had been
Jerry who had tangled with the VSP man. He would
have been In the position I was In, and probably offered
the same jobs. What would that mean to me? Would
it mean a better chance for me to get ahead, or for any
of the others to get ahead ? Would it do anything to-
^ 240 ^
ward solving the problems of all the rest of us ? Would
it prove anything about the union? Not a thing, Pop."
*' What do you want then? " asked Pop.
" Well, the way it looks to me we've still got plenty
to do to earn the right we've just gained to bargain with
the company. We've got to earn it by proving that we
are sensible, responsible men. And I feel I can help
best in this by staying one of the rank and file. So, even
if I stay on the assembly line all my life it will be worth
it if we manage to build a new reputation for the unions
which will gain the respect of the entire American peo-
ple as well as the company bosses."
Pop began to sputter protestingly, but Hollls only
smiled again easily.
" As I was saying. Pop, Pm a mechanic, and I still
want to be an engineer. But I want my chance for the
future to come in a way that might come to anybody
else like me. Pm convinced that the real answer to mil-
lions of individual problems is in some kind of system or
arrangement that will give every man the opportunity
to go as far as he is able, whether his ambition Is big or
little. And then Pd get my chance too."
" Sounds farfetched to me," said Pop. " Pm giving
you my honest opinion."
" It could happen," said Hollls. " It's got to happen.
Pop, when I went to Motor City I found thousands like
myself there. Think how many more like me there
must be in the world, all hoping for a chance, wondering
what to do, and looking for the same answer I am.
" There's a big world outside Holden. Right now
men are fighting and dying to change that world. It
won't ever be the same again. It's either going to be a
world where no one has a chance, or where everyone has
a chance. I want the second world.
" If all this fighting and struggling means anything,
it means that our victory will be a victory for us ordi-
nary people, and a better chance to see our dreams come
true. It means a chance for every Hollis in the world,
no matter where he may be, or when he will be born."
" And you have the feeling you can help all that by
going back to the assembly line? "
Hollis nodded slowly. " I have. I'm convinced that
the only way is for everyone to have an equal chance.
And I've enough faith to take my chance with the oth-
ers. We can do it. Pop. We're passing through bad
times, but we've got the stuff to find an answer for ev-
erybody. It won't be easy. There will be all kinds of
misunderstandings, troubles, and bad mistakes. But
we're moving forward, and that's what counts.
" I'm sticking with my job and my union. If I ever
get the chance in life I've wanted, it's going to come
when I've earned it by the work I've done, and not be-
cause of this or that big shot I've gotten to know. It's
the only way to prove my faith in myself and in the ideas
Pop smiled and took Hollis by the arm. " I like that
kind of talk, Hollis. The old world is a mess, all right,
and some of us don't know what to do about it. But
it's like a farmer's old Ford : Hollis can Rx 'er."
** Me? But Pop, you don't understand. That's not
what I was saying."
^ 242 "^
*' 'Course I didn't mean you personal, all by yourself,"
said Pop grumpily, wiping his forehead with his big red
bandanna. " I mean like you said, boy. Every Hollis in
the world, no matter where he is, or when he will be
'ORN on a farm, Henry Vicar,
too, finally came to the city to live.
So it is not just from his extensive
research alone that he writes the
story of Mollis McEachron ; it is partly
from his own experience. Mr. Vicar
traveled widely in this country,
Canada, and South America, gather-
ing material and getting opinions
from which to write this book. Au-
thoritative in its details, it is also
well-balanced in its treatment of the
whole problem of relationships be-
tween Capital and Labor.
Keenly interested in all of the social
problems which affect the function-
ing of our system of government,
Mr. Vicar has made a contribution
in THE COMPANY OWNS THE
TOOLS which will be appreciated
by every thinking American, no
matter what his position may be.
It is full of keen observations and
good, hard-headed American straight
thinking from start to finish.
BIG oafldh STORE
By DONALD ROSE
Here is escape reading at its best— a happy story! Full of
humor, with refreshing characterizations, it is a career story
that has punch and life and surprises from the first paragraph.
Taking you behind the scenes into the rush and clatter of
the merchandising and advertising worlds, BIG STORE lets
you see smart young Chuck Martin make his way through
advertising campaigns and merchandising stunts, stumble and
take the bumps, but come up smiling and ready for more.
A rollicking, readable book with an authentic background,
written by a man who knows the big store merchandising
field inside and out. If you are interested in a career— es-
pecially in starting one— you'll find many a tip in this hard-
to-put-down book. $2.00
THE WESTMINSTER PRESS